I recently spent a weekend in Geoje visiting a few friends of mine. What was supposed to be a weekend spent sunbathing and having BBQ’s on the beach became one of torrential downpours as the Korean monsoon season (as well as the beginnings of typhoon Prapiroon expected on the following Monday) announced its sudden uncompromising arrival.
Everyone has their own rituals they complete in their daily lives, and some of these routines are dependent on, or arise because of, the weather. For me, when it is raining, I want to be either 1) walking aimlessly outside without an umbrella or coat, absolutely drenched in rain, or 2) in a cafe with a drink, sat by the window watching and listening to the downpour of rain.
As I parted with a friend, who had prior engagements, on Saturday to wander around Geoje, on her recommendation I decided to visit a few select cafes.
The first I went to was a small cafe called ‘Caramella’ (카라멜라). Inside, the cafe is quite minimalistic, with simple white walls, small wooden tables on the right-hand side with green overhead lights, and shelving to the immediate right. Towards the back of the cafe, the day’s baking goods are displayed as well as the actual kitchen where the food is made. The owner, Hye Rin, bakes everything fresh so there’s a delicious smell in the air as you enter.
The place itself felt very quaint and homely to me, as if I were sat in someone’s kitchen rather than a cafe. I half expected Hye Rin to begin making another batch of tarts or a cake while customers were seated, so comfortably domestic was the atmosphere.
In the end, I decided to try the lemon meringue tart, given I am partial to them in England, and the chocolate brownie. To finish the decadent occasion, I ordered a cup of Earl Grey tea.
The tart was heavenly – a thin short-crust pastry, tart lemon filling, and finished with a gently-torched meringue topping. The brownie was moist and tasty, but I was rather full after the tart so I couldn’t quite complete the challenge of eating it all!
All in all, it’s a perfect place to go early in the afternoon to read a book or do a bit of writing.
The second was my absolute favourite so much so that I am immensely jealous of all Okpo residents – a cafe called ‘Gukjedang‘ or ‘International House’ (국제당). After I had satisfied my rainy day cafe cravings, I headed to a friend’s home to rest before dinner.
For dinner, some friends took me to a recently opened place called ‘UJ Smokehouse’, known for its Texas BBQ sharing platters.
Large windows in bold black frames, ‘UJ Smokehouse’ in bold white letters, it’s safe to say they’re playing it simple and cool. And it works! The large windows give you a good view of the restaurant and the lights cast a welcoming glow, beckoning you inside.
In the restaurant, large wooden tables are set at either side of the room. When we visited, although there were two other groups already seated, the atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed, with mellow background chatter.
One highlight for me is that you can buy a selection of 4 x 200ml glasses of beer as ‘testers’, allowing you to sample the range of beer on offer. The Gandara Sampler includes Jeomchon IPA Original, a rich beer with a citrus orange aroma, Eunhasu Stout, a dark beer flavoured with coffee, Juheul Weizen, a fruity wheat beer, and Omija Ale, a white ale with omija fruit.
But, the crowning glory of ‘UJ Smokehouse’ is the Texas BBQ platter which comes in three variations depending on how hungry you are and the size of your group.
With four of us, we chose the 4 platter option a.k.a the feast, which includes pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, pork belly, spare ribs, french fries, mini buns, coleslaw, house salad, 3 sauces (tomato ketchup, BBQ sauce, and spicy BBQ sauce), and the choice of two additional sides (we went with mac & cheese and mashed potato). You hungry yet?
Needless to say, it was amazing. There’s something so fulfilling about constructing your own burger! And the metal tongs provided ensure you needn’t get your hands dirty, particularly when eating the sticky ribs.
In the morning, the weather had completely changed. What were waterlogged streets with mini streams running down the pavements and grey skies the day before were now pristine streets and clear blue skies! On the day I was going home. Typical!
To prepare for the long journey ahead (1 hour from Okpo to Busan, Sasang, and 2 hours 30 minutes from Busan, Sasang to Geochang), we decided to visit a brunch place called ‘Spoons’ for a hearty breakfast. Here, they serve Koreanised full English breakfasts, American breakfasts (minus the beans and mushrooms for a hash brown and tomato), as well as paninis, sandwiches, and other brunch options.
Honestly, I just had to try the full English breakfast here. Although it was filling, the full English was missing a few components. Still, it hit the spot and I was energised for the trip home.
Overall, I found Okpo, Geoje to be a pretty diverse place! I plan to visit again soon when the monsoon season is over so I can soak up the sun on the beach!