Libertine is a standout among restaurants in Itaewon and Haebongchon
My husband and I stumbled upon Libertine Bar and Kitchen by accident one evening as we wandered through Itaewon looking for a nice restaurant where we could both celebrate a birthday and get a baby through the door.
We spotted Libertine and its black-and-white awning from the sidewalk and peered through the large windows at a packed room with bar seating in one corner. But what sold us on eating there was the fact that the restaurant was on a ground floor, which meant we could wheel in Junior’s stroller without having to lug it up the set of stairs that seems to front most businesses in Seoul.
Little did we know that Libertine is so packed on weekend nights that a reservation is almost a must to get a seat. Still, without batting an eye at our unwieldy baby gear or the potentially disruptive little crying machine inside, the host took one look at us and graciously asked, “Table for two and a half?” as the staff moved a table to make room for our stroller.
The friendliness of the staff aside, Libertine is a standout among the hundreds of restaurants in the Itaewon and Haebongchon areas outside U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan because of its classy atmosphere and reasonably priced food. With its high ceilings and sleek black, white and gray interior, Libertine feels like a French bistro, the kind of place where — sans baby — you would take clients you hope to impress out for a business lunch or linger over drinks after a romantic dinner.
The American-style menu offers upscale and at times creative takes on comfort food, from a Gorgonzola- and hickory-smoked bacon-topped lamb burger for 19,000 won (about $16) to a salad with citrus and lavender-marinated beets at 17,000 won.
Meals here aren’t exactly cheap, but you could easily pay more for food of lesser quality at other restaurants in the area.
Starters, which range from 13,000 to 27,000 won, include a watermelon salad with arugula, basil, ham and mozzarella cheese and a charcuterie board with homemade steak tartare, salami, crostini and an herb salad.
There’s a brunch menu with items priced between 12,000 and 17,000 won that includes standards like steak and eggs and the more exotic Moroccan baked eggs with chorizo sausage and spiced yogurt. There are pasta dishes at about 20,000 won, burgers and a more expensive dinner menu with items like foie gras roasted chicken for 22,000 won and ribeye steak for 42,000 won.
On a lunchtime visit, I ordered the eggs royale — an English muffin topped with poached eggs, salmon and a buttery hollandaise sauce — that was one of the best brunch meals I’ve had in Seoul, aside from the perfectly serviceable but boring muffin that tasted like it came straight from the commissary.
My husband ordered the basil linguine with shrimp, served with pine nuts, a dusting of cheese and enough cream sauce to coat but not drown the pasta.
There are also desserts and an extensive menu of cocktails, wine and beer.
LIBERTINE BAR AND Kitchen
Directions: Address: 141-8 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. From Itaewon Station, take exit three, double back and walk toward the intersection, then turn left. Walk about three minutes, and Libertine Bar and Kitchen will be on your left.
Hours: Brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Menu: In English. Contemporary new American cuisine.
Dress: Dressy casual to dressy.
Information: Phone: 010-9569-5858; website: fb.com/libertineseoul