First, a short summary on the drama, “The First Shop of Coffee Prince”
Coffee Prince is a South Korean drama aired in 2007, starring Yoon Eun-hye from Princess Hours, Gong Yoo from One Fine Day, Lee Sun-gyun from White Tower and Chae Jung-an. It is based on the novel of the same name written by Lee Sun-mi. It was first broadcast in South Korea on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from 2 July to 28 August 2007. The drama is a love story between a tomboyish woman pretending to be a man and a young food empire mogul. Go Eun-chan played by Yoon Eun-hye decided to work for Choi Han-kyul (Gong Yoo) in order to support her mother and her annoying younger sister. After getting an ultimatum from his grandmother, Han-kyul takes over a rundown old coffee shop, later renamed ‘Coffee Prince’, to prove his ability, both to his grandmother and to his ex-girlfriend Yoo-joo. In order to attract female customers, he only hires good-looking male employees. Eun-chan, desperate for money, continues to hide her gender to get a job at Coffee Prince.(SOURCE)
This place is included in our itinerary because my beloved sister is a BIG Gong-Yoo fan and I myself liked the drama…and the cute guys that starred in it. My favorites are Lee Dong Wook who played the Japanese-Korean waiter who was discovered by Han-kyul selling waffles and Lee Eon (R.I.P.) who played Hwang Min-yeop. Sadly, Lee Eon passed away a year after “Coffee Prince” aired due to a broken neck he sustained from a motorcycle riding accident. His funeral was attended by his friends from “Coffee Prince” and Gong-Yoo even filed for leave during his military service in order to hold Lee Eon’s memorial tablet during the funeral. 😦
Anyway, it was an opportunity to relive this wonderful drama, so on our second to the last day in Seoul, my sister and I trekked to Hongdae, the university area of Seoul, just to go to Coffee Prince. Finding the cafe was a challenge, it was located in the farthest end of Hongdae and if you are not familiar on how the cafe looks like, you might miss it. Fortunately, I did my research before we left for Seoul, thanks to this very efficient blog.
Here are the directions we followed:
1. Take the subway going to Hongkik University Station and get out on exit 8 – the blog used to say it’s exit 4 so we went out on exit 4 only to be miserably lost. While walking towards exit 4, we ran across a cute and furry creature:
“Pikachu Girl” is giving away hugs! Seemed to us like a harmless college org or sorority prank. We are, after all, within vicinity of Hongkik University, one of Korea’s best arts schools. Since we took the wrong exit, we got lost walking aimlessly around the Hongdae area. The first two people we met seemed like they don’t have any idea what Coffee Prince is, until we met Song-hae who kindly showed us the way to Seven Springs restaurant, which is the landmark to the street leading to the cafe.
2. Upon seeing Seven Springs restaurant, turn right and go straight until you see a big center island. Turn left into the junction, until you see a small, bushy round-about. Then turn right (look for the Dduk Takk restaurant, when you see it you will be turning right soon) then just walk uphill.
3. Just continue walking until you’re about reach a T-Junction. To your right, you will see the “1st Shop of Coffee Prince.”
And here is the part where I will try to manage your expectations. Let’s go first with the positives. Obviously, a trip to this cafe is perfect for those who loved K-Dramas. If you are looking for a gourmet coffee experience, then this place is not for you. But if you want to drink nice coffee and yummy cheesecakes while daydreaming that one of the princes will come and serve you, then by all means, do visit. It’s an experience that is nice to have especially if you’re into the Hallyu Wave. It has all the memorabilia from the drama as well as personalized messages from the cast. The interior is pretty nice and cozy too — like a very hispter, youthful cafe with dose of attitude. And did I mention how good the cheesecakes were?
Upon entering the place, you will be immediately approached by a barista (a girl!!!) who will ask you to order first before you sit down. Probably, to ensure that there won’t be people inside the cafe who’s just there to gawk at Coffee Prince photos.
Whatever you do, do not order on the Menu written on the board on the wall. Yes, the prices are affordable, but it’s also the prop menu from the drama. A taped sign says so. The real menu is propped in an easel. Nothing there is below KRW7,000.
My sister and I ordered two coffees each (KRW7,000) and the New York Cheesecake (KRW7,000) — I tell you it was the most expensive coffee I ever had in my life. Coffee is cute, but not exceptional while Cheesecake is probably the best cheesecake I had in Korea. Or in the Philippines, or anywhere for that matter. It was worth the KRW7,000 price tag!
Everywhere you look, there is something to remind you of the drama:
Now, here are some of my observations:
1. The place now needs some serious repair. The walls are already peeling, outside looks depressing and there are a lot of areas in the wall covered taped with black paper.
2. A lot of the area in the cafe is out-of-bounds. Specifically, the areas highlighted in the drama. Access is prohibited for the second floor, too.
3. Did I mention that coffee was expensive (well everything was!)
The highlight of any trip was the opportunity to post at the so-called mural “painted” by Gong-yoo in the drama. When we were there, all tourists will immediately gravitate to the wall as soon as it’s available. I hate to burst your bubble, but that mural is not exactly a painting. It’s a sticker. And the edges are already peeling 😦
Anyway, we had fun visiting the Coffee Prince cafe. I really wish they will restore it and fix some of the areas in order to ensure that it will remain attractive to other tourists. Coffee Prince was aired in 2007, so they have to make the coffee shop really attractive and relevant, especially since there’s a lot of really good restaurants and coffee shops in the area.
Before the above picture was taken and just when my sister had posed for the shot, we heard a voice from behind us shouting, “No…no…no…no!” It was the pretty barista shooing us away, having mistaken us for fan girls out to take pictures but not about to buy anything inside. When my sister turned around, the barista recognized us as the Filipina girls who were inside earlier and bowed low, while saying “sorry…sorry…sorry” (cue SuJu music here).
Are we in anyway offended? Not exactly — pretty barista is just following orders and besides, business is business. If they will allow all tourist to stop by and just take pictures, the cafe will not earn anything and might close down.