© Labotory / Photography: Yong-Joon Choi

Considered an area to avoid for plenty of reasons thirty years ago, Itaewon has bounced back hard, transforming into what’s arguably the most vibrant part of Seoul. It’s the go-to neighbourhood where savvy young Koreans wine and dine or party hard until the wee little hours. As such, Itaewon has become a lifestyle laboratory of sorts for entrepreneurs and brands alike, and it’s rife with innovations that target the aforementioned (and pickiest) group of consumers. The recently opened Café Oriente falls into that category, offering a sleek meeting place where to socialize over various beverages and pastries.

The café is situated at the far end of a narrow street, occupying the ground floor of a modern red brick structure. Partially sunken into the ground, the 58 sqm. (624 sq.ft.) space has a sheltered feel that’s further reinforced by an interior design of local practice Labotory that pairs traditional Korean elements with modern understatement. Cement plastered walls, terrazzo tiles and an exposed concrete ceiling form the backdrop of sleek interventions crafted from untreated wood. Upon entering Café Oriente, visitors come across a service station and bar with two stools that’s marked by a futuristic white awning and paneling of vertical wooden slats.

Directly opposite the café is situated, featuring wooden benches lining the wall. An integral part of the interior design are carefully tweaked rock formations on strips of gravel – respectively symbolising harmony and the ocean – that also adorn the outside porch. The ceiling, in a pristine white hue and backlit, seamlessly ties in with the venue’s front section. Café Oriente‘s barista serves various quality coffee options, teas and other beverages – mind you, there’s even beer – in addition to jelly cube pastries in different flavours. Location: Café Oriente, 682-16 Hannam-dong (Itaewon).

© Labotory / Photography: Yong-Joon Choi