Chungdam area, a place where all the possibly best things in Seoul could be found. A casual stroll around the area may get you a chance to “rub shoulders” with your favourite artist here at Chungdam. What I am writing about today is a highly raved Boulangerie located among all the big labels in the fashion industry: L’atelier Monique.
Just a 4 to 5 minutes stroll up the street from Apgujung-rodeo station, this quaint and cosy bakery offers freshly grind and brewed coffee, alongside with a huge collection of freshly baked pastries and bread every morning. Their famous star item — “Fruits Haricot Rouge” bread, is very much enjoyed by actor Bae Yong Joon, and Lee Seung Gi. Actress Jeon Jihyun (Gianna Jun), Suzy from Miss A and also Minho from SHINee were seen purchasing bread from this particular bakery as well.
We went to the bakery on a late Sunday afternoon. Stepping into L’ atelier Monique, the sweet and intense aroma of baking bread and pastries immediately took over. In front of the counter are fresh loaves of bread, lined up beautifully on the tray, beckoning you forward.
Founder Mr Lee Won Young was worked and trained under the Japanese Master baker Hiroharu Sugiyama in Japan. Gathering 5 years of know-how in the industry, Mr. Lee started the Boulangerie at Cheongdam area and has receive so much love in the country, especially in this glitz and glamorous neighbourhood, where all the big shots in the Korean entertainment industry reside.
It was one quiet, hot and sleepy Sunday afternoon at the Boulangerie. I was promptly awakened by the smell of fresh bread that greeted my nose when I walked into the place. Gorgeous afternoon sunlight shines through the huge window allowing us to make ourself home at this cosy little corner of the Boulangerie, which is decorated in a fun and innocent, childlike atmosphere.
As the baker is trained in Japan, and also largely by the fact that the actor Bae Yong Joon frequent this place, the Boulangerie naturally became one of the top bakeries among the Japanese community in Korea. They even have a Japanese menu for their foreign customers from Japan.
In front of each bread baskets are these cute, chubby little nametag-stand made of bread dough. Mr Lee was saying that these dough balls are all baked hard so they won’t turn mouldy. It is such a great idea for a nametag-stand, isn’t it? ^^
Spoilt by choices on the racks, we simply didn’t know which bread to choose from. Hence, we left it to Mr Lee to decide for us. The breads we had that day are all selected by the chef, some are based on the popularity, some are from his recommendation.
Fruits Haricots Rouges (후류이 아리꼬르쥬)
The star item of the Boulangerie — Fruits Haricots Rouges (후류이 아리꼬르쥬) [read: Who-ru-i Arico-reu-tsu]. The “후류이” (Who-ru-i) is a kind of bread that contains assorted nuts and cranberries, which give off a “fruity” taste. That is how the name “Fruits” or the Japlish name “후류이” (Who-ru-i) came from.
What is so special about this “Fruits”/ “후류이” (Who-ru-i) is that the bread is made of real old, matured dough that has been fermenting for 72 hours. These old dough that was left overnight for 3 days contains lively yeast. Given real enough time for the flavour of wheat from the flour to develop, these lovely bread made of old dough has a full-flavoured palate and a lighter, open-textured crumb if compared to a straight yeast dough. Plus point is an extended shelf life!
Taking advantage of the full flavours of the wheat and the fruity note from the cranberries and nuts, Mr Lee added his secret recipe — red bean paste into the loaf. The mild sweetness of the red bean paste neutralised the strength of the citrusy taste of cranberry, giving off a softer and balanced taste. It is actor Bae Yong Joon’s personal favourite bread from the Boulangerie.
The red bean paste filling is certainly one of the best I have tried thus far in South Korea. Prepared daily to ensure the freshness, their red bean paste is a refreshing competitor compared to those plain and overly sweetened red bean paste from the cans. It is moist and sticky, solid yet smooth, perfect already by its own!
Pumpkin Baguette 단호박 바게트
Another item on the rack that receive constant attention and love in the Boulangerie. A combination of the quintessential Parisian loaf, sweet pumpkin, cheese and sprinkled with parsley. Rustic and simple ingredients, yet the outcome looks so inviting and delicious.
This loaf is topped with a crisp and chewy crust. I like the cracker-like exterior and the “yeasty”, moist crumb, filling up by big and small air holes. Look at the beautiful sight of the air holes, adorned with cheese and pumpkin!
Sea salt Caramel Scone & Cream Cheese Tart
Bound to impress, this dessert tart featured velvety cream cheese with a generous layer of raspberry puree. The combination makes the light brown colour crust exceptionally rich and tender. A perfect dessert to go with after a good meal.
The sea salt caramel scone at the left-hand side was however slightly dry in texture. I thought scones are usually drier and denser, but their scone did not impress me. It was alright, but not memorable. Perhaps it was the sequence I had my bread that destroyed my taste buds before I can appreciate the mellow flavour from the scone. Or perhaps a little bit of butter would have been a great palate cleanser or that I should have taken this semi-sweet treat before all the heavier flavour goodies on the palate!!!
미숫가루 [read: mi-sut garu] is some kind of mixed powder of various grain-beans, brown rice, barley etc. in Korea. For most Korean, it is a typical “Korean-Korean” type of flavour, that perhaps only Korean can appreciate it better. Most Korean mix it with milk and honey, chilled in the fridge and serve it as a summer delicacy. Sometimes it is also used as a substitution of a meal.
The appearance of this bread, especially its crust reminded me of the traditional red-bean or coconut filling bread we can get at those traditional neighbourhood bakery. Very old-school, vintage outlook with the humble, inexpensive, everyday ingredient as fillings– the Korean mixed grain powder whipped to creamy texture. It gives off a nutty and creamy taste, with texture slightly similar to custard. A very simple bread, easily top of Korean ajumma/ nanny’s choice. If you have a taste buds of an
old refined soul, you will probably like it.
What a beautiful name for a bread like this! In a dreamy, beautiful shade of pale pink colour, the bread is made into the shape of a flower. So soft and squishy, like golden nuggets candy — in cotton candy colour. Generous amount of dried nuts and raspberries were added to the bread, leaving it an interesting texture to nibble on.
Too girly and superficial? Don’t judge a bread by its appearance. The fillings are nonetheless a huge scoring factor. The pale pink cream cheese fillings is light and smooth, with a touch of the refreshing scent of sun-ripened, fresh raspberry. Raspberry mellows the grease from the cream cheese, leaving a sophisticated taste on the tastebuds. My personal favourite next to the famous Bae Yong Joon bread (Fruits Haricots Rouges)!
Verdict: Impressive bread with a touch of Japanese flavour. Good variety. Quiet and friendly environment suitable for intimate gatherings with your girl friends. Foreigner visitors come here to enjoy bits and pieces of their idol’s way of life, while locals visit the place because of their excellence in baking. Come to think of it, the bread here can be an ideal gift for casual visit to a friend’s house 😉
L’ Atelier Monique Boulangerie 라틀리에 모니크 (click name to link to their site)
80-21, 1st level, Gangnam Gu, Chungdam Dong. Seoul.
서울시 강남구 청담동 80-21 주경빌딩 1층
Operating Hours: 10am to 7pm.
How to get to L’ Atelier Monique Boulangerie: (click on pic to enlarge)
1. Coming out from Apgujung Rodeo Station exit No. 3, walk straight down 3 blocks where you’ll see ESCADA on your right hand side.
2. Turn into the alley right beside ESCADA, and turn left at the end of the street. L’ Atelier Monique will appear on your left hand side as you walk down the street.