Thursday 20 June 2013

Passion 5 & L'atelier

Google Maps indicated a 25 minute walk between Sushi-ro and Passion 5 through what seemed to be a park, but 15 minutes into our journey I realized the patch of green on my map wasn't just any park, but Namsan

The route that I'd been given required us to walk through an expressway tunnel under the hill, a rather suicidal task. With no option of going around Namsan nor any idea how to go over it in any efficient manner, walking the rest of the way was out of the question. So, like any other sane tourist who's hopelessly lost and can't understand the language, we took a cab and pointed at the characters on the screen, hoping the driver would know where to go. 

After a bit of confusion and a lot of looks that plainly said "Gosh, I hope I'm going the right way.", the driver finally pulled up between the large red bird and the large black chandelier of Passion 5 to everyone's immense relief. 

Passion 5 and all the other related cafés and restaurants in the group are housed in a sleek, black building shaped like a horseshoe. Initially, M thought that the whole place basically sold the same things and we could go to anywhere and try the pastries and cakes the place is so famous for, but we were soon told that each level houses a slightly different outlet, all serving slightly different things. 

So, we did thorough reconnaissance of the whole building. The basement housed a really posh place doing more traditional high tea offerings, and felt like the perfect destination for well-heeled ladies of leisure to sit and chat. Since we didn't have the entire afternoon at our disposal (Still had to get to the art museum!), we were forced to tear ourselves away. 

On the ground floor, Passion 5 proper is divided into a number of sections, 1 being the Gelateria, 2 the Bakery, 3 the Patisserie and so on. There's a limited number of seats, all rather cramped given the large display shelves. It's really more a grab and go sort of place on the ground level rather than somewhere nice to sit down, and as we found out later, you can actually purchase a number of pastries and have them plated and served to you at L'atelier on the 2nd floor. 

Still, even if you're not eating there, you definitely need to feast your eyes at Passion 5. Just look at those cakes - notice the pigs wearing sunglasses near the bottom right corner? 

Some of the specials had extra displays. I imagine if Cinderella really did have a 'kill heel', the story might have been a tad more interesting. There's also the whole display of puddings, biscuits and a chocolatier packed into the space, and if you don't emerge feeling slightly giddy from all the colours then I salute you. 

We hitched a ride in the lift on the left hand side of the building, and it stopped us on the 3rd floor where there's an Italian restaurant. It was utterly deserted compared to the rest of the building, so we poked around for a bit. 

With no staff in sight it looked like a beautiful show restaurant. 

On the top floor is Petit 5, a space catering to parents and young children. 

Even the stairs leading up to it are so prettily decorated. With the space designed to be child-friendly, there's an element of practicality to Petit 5, including the child-safe gate at the entrance so there's no worry of small children escaping and tumbling down the stairs. When we saw it, M gave me a pointed look as if to remind me of the trauma she suffered when I tripped and pitched myself down a flight of steps when I was nearly two. 

Inside is bright and cheerful, and on the shelves are all manner of cuddly and soft things, including baskets of fluffy toys you can purchase. There's also furniture and children's clothes, but really all I had eyes for were the stuffed animals. 

Look at the little owlet!
There were children gambolling about the play area at the back, and the small café serving this floor had snack options suitable for children, and sandwiches and cakes for the parents. And then there was this massive giraffe. 

We went down the stairs to the last section we hadn't explored - L'atelier on the second floor. We figured it would suit nicely for tea. 

They seated us on the plush throne-like red sofa seats near the bookshelf in the middle of the right arm of the building, so we had a good vantage point to watch everyone around us. To our right, sprawled over the sofa shaped like lips were some young girls, and all four of them were sharing one drink. To be honest, everyone else at L'atelier seemed under 30, save for the couple seated on our left, who looked about 60 and bewildered to be there. 

It was tough picking a dessert. Initially I thought the Cotton Candy Cappuccino was a great choice, but I found out that it was cotton candy atop ice cream flavours I didn't particularly fancy, and couldn't change, so I had to get something else. 

The adjustable bookshelf was a great piece and I sat there admiring it while waiting for our desserts to arrive. 

Remembering the amazing lemonade I had at Café Moraebi, I ordered another one here. Sadly, it tasted mainly of chemical sweetener. 

M's orange tea was similarly blah. Even with the slice of orange there and the juice below, you could hardly taste any citrus. 

When our desserts came we forgot our disappointment over the drinks and got quite excited, because these had been recommended to us and were so nice to look at. 

M's Blueberry Millefeuille was really enjoyable. The pastry was crisp and flaky, the fresh blueberries and blueberry cream nice and sweet. The heart-shaped bowl of fruit salad also went in some ways to assuage her guilt for over-indulging, and the blackcurrant sorbet was also richly fruity. 

My Strawberry Crepe was also good. Yes, it looked deliriously pink, yes, the puff pastries were rather soggy and hard and yes, the pancake itself was squishy and didn't taste of much, but the rest of the dessert held it together. For one, the overwhelming pinkness didn't mean strawberry overkill. 

In spite of the dessert's name, the strawberry sauces up top masked a combination of oranges and fresh cream on the inside of the crepe. The macaron accompanying it was a fragrant blackcurrant, and the biggest surprise of all was the grapefruit sorbet. It was ever so slightly bitter, and made sure the dessert never got too heavy to finish. 

It's a fairly pricey place, and you also get the feeling it's really in the middle of bloody nowhere, but if you ever have an afternoon to spare in Seoul and want to have a taste of the hippest desserts in town, then this is the place to go. 

272, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 

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