After Hours: Find tea, delicious coffee and vegan desserts at Botton in Seoul
Of the dozens of artsy, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops tucked in twisting alleys of Seoul’s Itaewon and Haebongchong neighborhoods, Botton caught my eye because of the unusual brass plaque hanging on its midnight-blue facade.
It listed standard offerings for an upscale coffee shop, such as espresso and organic tea.
And then: “dessert for vegetarian.”
As a quasi-vegetarian with a penchant for quirky cafes and anything chocolate, my interest was piqued. And I was not disappointed during a recent visit, when I had what was, by far, the best coffee I’ve tasted in South Korea.
Botton is small, with just four tables and a few seats at a small counter and at a wide window looking out on mostly pedestrian traffic outside. So is its one-page menu, which offers standards such as lattes and cappuccinos.
I ordered a packet of four vegan cranberry cookies — meaning they were made with no animal products, including eggs, milk, butter or honey. They were soft and chewy, and had I not known they were vegan, I would never have guessed there was anything unusual about them. Because I am a thorough food critic, I also had to sample a slice of non-vegan pecan pie, which had a deliciously flaky crust and rich filling.
The biggest surprise of the day was the coffee. I ordered a flat white, a slightly sweetened mixture of espresso and milk served in a small glass with an artsy milk swirl on top. It was strong yet smooth, lightly and perfectly sweetened.
Botton is also a step up from other coffee shops in terms of atmosphere. With its muted blue-gray walls, dim lighting, fresh flowers on the tables and soft jazz playing in the background, this is a place to go on a date, to chat with friends, work quietly on your laptop or read a book.
Directions: On the hill between the Itaewon and Noksapyeong subway stops. From Itaewon station, take Exit One and walk about 10 minutes until you see the small uphill alley, wide enough for one car, branching off on the right. Walk up the hill, and Botton will be on the left across from Berlin restaurants.
Menu: Coffees, teas and a small dessert menu. Some desserts are vegan; drinks can be ordered with soy milk.
Hours: 1 p.m.-11 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m.-9 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Costs: Most coffees are priced at 4,000 to 6,000 won (about $3.75-$5.60). You can add syrups for an extra 500 won.
Phone: (+82) 070-8264-3720.