If you saw it in passing, you might be forgiven if you thought it was just another of the many coffee houses that have sprung up throughout Ulsan like mushrooms after a warm spring rain. But once apprised of the delights that await behind the doors of this quaint little restaurant, you’ll never forgive yourself for not sampling its delicious fare. London Tea is a brunch cafe with a surprising twist – they specialize in creating dishes with cranberries because they are a healthy choice.
On the suggestion of a friend I went to check out this smallish shop and see if really was as delicious as he said. I always take recommendations of “western style” restaurants with an industrial size grain of salt. I’ve been in far too many restaurants that can’t seem to divorce themselves from a bowl of kimchi or dish of pickles and radish on the table . I’ve also had my fill of restaurants with English menus that are great as bad examples of English usage. London Tea had neither the Korean side dish accoutrements nor the Konglish menu. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very comfy cafe with warm wooden tables, country decor, fresh art work adorning the walls and an impeccable English menu.
We went at lunchtime and I had heard the sandwiches were good so we zeroed in on those. Our choices of sandwiches was slim, but not at all disappointing. A great selection of breakfast or brunch items was available as well. We settled on sharing two of the sandwiches. The first was what appeared to be a seasonal Thanksgiving special - a turkey, ham and Muenster cheese sandwich with cranberry sauce on whole wheat bread. Back home a little cranberry sauce that mixed in with the turkey and mashed potatoes on my plate was never a worry, so having cranberries on my sandwich sounded different but not unappetizing. I wasn’t disappointed. The sandwich was excellent – delicately melted Muenster cheese and real turkey, ham and lettuce with a thin layer of cranberry sauce on perfectly toasted bread. Undoubtedly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in Korea. Served with a green salad that had just the right amount of dressing on it and a small helping of roasted potatoes it was as western a lunch as one could imagine.
Our other choice for a sandwich was the chicken curry salad served on a soft flaky bun and a small green salad and crackers. This also was very tasty with a light curry flavor and had raisins and almonds in it as well as another delicious flavor I couldn’t quite place.
We were well pleased with our choices for lunch but the breakfast/brunch menu was equally interesting. The menu listed banana pancakes, a sour cream pancake with cranberries and chocolate chips, a western omelet with onions, red and green peppers, ham, pepper jack cheese and corn (the only concession to Korean-ized western food on the entire menu), a cheese omelet that will be my next adventure which the owner calls “When Apple met Cheddar..” Another must have for me is the apple, bacon and bleu cheese salad with cranberries and walnuts. Real bleu cheese is as rare as hen’s teeth in this land and my mouth is watering for it as I write this sentence. At the table next to us they ordered the cranberry and cream cheese stuffed french toast with bacon and maple syrup. I coveted that as well.
In addition to the coffee that is ubiquitous these days, London Tea has a nice selection of…you guessed it…teas: Earl Grey, Darjeeling, rosemary, chamomile, peppermint, pomegranate oolong, vanilla, cinnamon, green tea and even a detox tea.
But also a selection of juices are available such as cranberry, orange or lemonade. And for something really western – fresh squeezed pink grapefruit.
London Tea is truly a stellar western style cafe with a unique menu and flair for flavor. With the turkey sandwich being a “Thanksgiving” special, one can only imagine what might be in store during other times of the year.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Korean food. I eat Korean food in one form or another almost every day. But being raised on a variety of cuisines a diversified diet is desired. London Tea is likely the most western cafe I’ve been to here and yet they are bold enough to offer a menu that is at once familiar and uncommon. It’s refreshing to find a restaurant that can break away from the mold of the typical Korean western restaurant and offer a unique dining experience.
On the down side of things, the menu is a little spendy. Nothing on the menu is under 10,000won. Don’t let that deter you, however, unless you’re on your own personal Grecian austerity budget. Good food that is well prepared is not cheap. Food this good should be a little expensive. Also, the kitchen is small, and although my lunch partner and I experienced fairly rapid service, a large party might tax the facilities somewhat.
For something different yet satisfyingly familiar, London Tea is an outstanding addition to Ulsan’s restaurant scene. Don’t be surprised if the secret gets out and this relatively new little restaurant gets too crowded.
To find London Tea, travel the curvy road (Daegongwon-ro) immediately adjacent to Ulsan Grand Park directly behind Gongeuptop Rotary and Parkpolis high rise apartments about 700 meters. If you come across the water slides inside Grand Park on your left you’ve gone just a little too far. Alternatively, you can get there from the Ok-Dong entrance to Ulsan Grand Park by following the sidewalk to the left, just past the water slide.
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