Hongdae was, and still is, a college area that exploded with youth. University students nationwide created these cultural hubs encompassing their respective colleges to liven up their college social life, and Hongik University's surroundings really stood as one of the most iconic representations of what it meant to be a college student in Korea. Due to this exuberance of youth, the popularity of Hongdae was tremendous when I myself was young. It was considered a home to creativity, sophistication and uniqueness -- mostly due to the influence of the college it represented.
Visiting Hongdae now made me realize how much times have passed. The unique charm Hongdae once held has been overtaken by the insuperable force of commonplace trends and social influences encroaching much of the world. In relation to food, franchise restaurants have been set in place over foundations that once strongly held the pillars for exotic restaurants only found in that area.
Although I was disappointed, I can't blame them. Hosting franchise companies has too many advantages that are unignorable. Due to this, it is difficult to find a single place without the ever-present familiarity of any culturally infused logo or slogan. Eating at even the least popular and newest franchises brings back the unfortunate presupposition that I'm practically eating food created in the same as way as those manufactured under the golden arches.
Dining at a particular franchise in Hongdae, however, I've luckily been able to be break off this presupposition. With pictures of Italian food luring customers into the restaurant, Spannew is (yes, you guessed it) an Italian restaurant near the main entrance of Hongik University.
Spannew is a typical franchise restaurant that started outside of Hongdae and slowly began spreading towards more populated areas of Seoul. Spannew means "Very new" and "Unique" and it presumably seeks to provide a new and even adventurous nuance with their food without surrendering their unconditional Italian traditions and culture. As my wife and I walked up the stairs towards the second floor, it felt as if we were venturing into a restaurant in Italy as decorative forks and spoons welcomed us in from the entrance walls.
Two different atmospheres can be felt within this small restaurant due to the windows that are lined up on one of the walls. The tables that are not directly lavished with sunlight are instead lit with dimmed lights, which makes it perfect for lifting a glass of wine. The tables located near the windows, however, create a terrace-like atmosphere, where eating some garlic bread and spaghetti seems just right. The restaurant provides a space to be romantic and fancy as well as bright and lively, depending on where the seat is and of course, who comes along with you.
Spannew offers a variety of Italian dishes -- pastas and pizzas presumably being their main specialties. After settling in at a comfortable seat, my wife ordered her favorite "Carbonara" cream spaghetti along with a lemonade while I ordered a seafood tomato risotto with an orange ade.
After ordering, we received some bread blocks with a sauce that was a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Dipping the bread into the mix really had us anticipating the main dishes that we were patiently waiting for. After receiving our salad, we were finally greeted by our main entrees. The Seafood Tomato Risotto was very similar to the Spanish dish "paella" and it contained a selection of seafood mixed with some tangy tomato sauce. The Carbonara ... was a Carbonara. Unfortunately yet as we had expected, it was nothing too special, but it was nevertheless delicious. Personally, I feel like I liked my wife's dish more than mine, but obviously that differs from person to person -- or should I say, from tongue to tongue?
The food was good but it was nothing exemplary to be frank. The atmosphere of the restaurant, however, really stood out to me as a noteworthy aspect of this restaurant. The salad alongside the bread blocks served up with the unique mixture were also memorable during our little date in this Italian restaurant. If you're on a date (like us) or if you're in need of a comfortable option to just talk for hours that you do not want to know are passing with anyone you're comfortable with, this restaurant offers you the best of both worlds.
Address: Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong 346-52, Seoul (Hongdae)
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