There’s a sense of freedom that comes with an all-inclusive bill, particularly when dining at some of the finest hotels in the country. Talented chefs have been put to work to come up with creative and filling dishes that will impress and bring big crowds to their lobbies, bars and outdoor barbecue areas, keeping their hotel hopping.
When they throw in unlimited beer and/or wine too, know you’ve hit on a carefree evening of dining, drinking and bonding with friends and coworkers with no surprises at the end.
Many people have no clue that these types of dining packages are out there, so we strapped the feed bag on to go and experience all of them for you and let you know what’s delicious, fun and unique about each. It was hard, but someone’s got to do it.
1. InterContinental COEX Lobby Lounge | Gangnam-gu, Seoul
First off, the unlimited drinks: plenty of sparkling white and rose wine plus a variety of red and white wines; the obligatory draft beer; often they throw in sangria and/or makgeolli cocktails – the choices seem endless. And then there’s the buffet.
This has become such a major part of the COEX’s Lobby Lounge character that when they did a remodel a few years ago, they custom built into the central section of the LL the perfect buffet set up, usually hosting drinks in the middle surrounded on both sides by the buffet.
One side offers mostly hot dishes, with the other side offering cold dishes including chips, veggie sticks, salads, sauces and dips. They’re always changing the concept and cuisine a bit too; every couple of months you’re in for a quite different experience.
In August, they were going with a “Glamping” concept, keeping up with the current local trends. No one was sitting there when we went by, but you never know.
Price: Regular W40,000, Premium W50,000
Includes: Red, white and sparkling wine, draft beer, plus extensive buffet
Days & hours: Monday – Saturday, 6 – 9 pm
Address: 524 Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
2. JW Marriott Seoul’s Bar Rouge | Seocho-gu, Seoul
Slink down to the basement of the JW Marriott next to Gangnam’s Express Bus Terminal and you’ll find yourself transported to wine bar heaven at Bar Rouge. The focus here is on the booze and you’ll be treated to between 20 to 30 different bottles of the stuff depending on whether you plump for the superior (W45,000) or the premium (W65,000) level.
You can pour yourself as many glasses as you like from their self-service wine bar with an extensive selection of reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines and then grab a few plates of food from their cold buffet. Sneak into their wine cellar to feast on cheese and nibbles, or head over to the cold-cuts, sushi table, salad bar and dessert section.
Plus they’ll bring a tower of hot treats to your table and you can enjoy live music or DJs every evening. Bar Rouge is perfect for those who love wine and want to relax in style. A higher class of wine buffet!
Price: Superior W45,000, Premium W65,000
Includes: Large variety of wines (selection changes with package), sushi, salad, cold cuts, cheese and dessert
Days & hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 6 – 9 pm
Address: 176 Sinbanpo-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul
3. Lotte Hotel’s Peninsula Italian Restaurant | Jung-gu, Seoul
While most of the other options on the list are outdoor barbecues, lounges or bars, this one happens to be in an Italian restaurant and served up by an Italian chef. Executive Chef Sebastiano Giangregorio oversees the preparation of the “mini-buffet” that goes with a variety of white and red wines, including sparkling varieties.
Chef Giangregorio just cooked for the Pope and his entourage, so you know you’re getting some of the real Italian deal here. The food on offer changes daily, but on our visit, it included plenty of cold cuts and prosciutto, salmon, a variety of cheeses, delicious salads including a shrimp and mini squid salad, and a delicious fresh blueberry, cherry and fig side dish.
There were quite high quality ingredients on this “mini-buffet” and the many kinds of wines made it a fun night of wine tasting as well.
Includes: About 30 dishes to choose from and 9 different wines
Days & hours: Daily, 6 – 9:30 pm
Address: 30 Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
4. Ramada Hotel Seoul | Gangnam-gu, Seoul
While the choice is yours to sit inside, the decor and beautiful view of massive Seolleung Park makes for quite the evening on the outside terrace. The buffet itself offers a good selection of salads, pasta, vegetables and tempting side dishes.
Especially recommended are the chicken and beef salads. As for the barbecue itself, rejoice in the freshly grilled meats offered by the chefs who are continuously at the grill, refilling plates with a selection of pork, chicken and spare ribs.
The Ciel Garden Barbecue at the Ramada is great for those who prefer their barbecue the good old fashioned way, nothing extravagant, no fancy flavours added, a bountiful choice in sides and plenty of excellent wines and other drinks to choose from, along with a small selection of cakes for dessert.
Price: Weekdays W50,000, Weekends W60,000
Includes: Barbecue buffet, 4 red or 4 white wines, draft beer and soft drinks
Days & hours: Monday – Friday, 6 to 10 pm
Address: 112-5 Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
5. Novotel Grand Ambassador | Gangnam-gu, Seoul
This is another option that is available year-round, but for the summer, Novotel Grand Ambassador’s Happy Hour has been moved to their beer garden and taken on a “Viva! Brazilian” theme. It will stay outdoors until the end of September before moving back into the Gran*A venue, where it will offer more of a nightlife atmosphere.
For now, the easy access location from the street ensures a comfortable dining experience surrounded by the sounds of the city, and their Brazilian theme offers up some unique barbeque flavors that many of the other locations may not offer.
With this comes a small but tasty buffet selection of all-you-can-eat barbecue, which is grilled on the spot before being served directly, as well as a variety of side dishes, salads and desserts.
Price: Domestic drafts W49,000, Heineken draft W53,000
Includes: Barbecue buffet, unlimited wine and draft beer
Days & hours: Monday – Saturday, 6:30 – 9:30 pm
Address: 130 Bongeunsa-ro, Seoul
6. Banyan Tree Oasis Poolside Buffet | Jung-gu, Seoul
Everyone knows the Banyan Tree has one of the most beautiful swimming pools in the country. This is your chance to enjoy their dinner buffet specializing in seafood and barbeque, situated adjacent to their luxurious poolside at the Oasis Restaurant.
The buffet boasts plenty of fresh seafood to go with grilled lamb, chicken, beef and pork belly. There are also a variety of light snacks and salads and freshly-baked bread. Dessert is there as well, with an assortment of fresh fruit, cakes, chocolate brownies and other sweet confections to go with green tea and freshly-brewed espresso coffee drinks.
Expect to pay a premium at the Banyan Tree, but sitting at the base of Namsan surrounded by greenery next to their beautiful pool, you will get to enjoy one of the most beautiful outdoor dining settings Korea has to offer with your buffet and drinks.
Price: W127,000 (W95,000 for the buffet, + W32,000 for unlimited house red and white wine and beer)
Includes: Buffet heavy on seafood and barbecue, unlimited house wine
Days & hours: Daily, 6 – 9 pm
Address: San 5-5 Jangchung-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
7. Grand Hyatt Seoul Poolside Barbecue | Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Operating for over 25 years, Grand Hyatt’s poolside barbecue at the base of Namsan focuses on one one thing – barbecue, and lots of it. Meat is cooked on demand by a team of chefs, and includes sirloin steak, lamb, chicken, pork sausage, and seafood including squid, grilled cuttlefish, jumbo shrimp (the chef barbecues up to 1,000 jumbo shrimp a night!) and salmon.
Pepper beef jus, beef brisket, pork ribs and other meats are available freshly sliced. To complement the barbecue offerings, guests can choose from a wide range of fresh salads, appetizers, side dishes, and desserts.
Great food is not all the Poolside Barbecue offers, with a spectacular view of the Han River and southern Seoul, that changes and brightens as the evening progresses.
Price: Sunday – Thursday Adults W85,000 Children (4 -12 years) W45,000, Friday – Saturday W95,000
Includes: Upgrade to limitless Heineken draft and premium wines for W135,000.
Days & hours: Everyday, 6:30 – 10 pm until the end of September
Address: 322 Sowol-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
8. Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel | Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Café Amiga, in its fourth year of business, is tucked away on the first floor of the IP Boutique Hotel. It is well lit and airy with a tropical vibe. When its glass front is thrown open, its fabric curtains billow in the wind and diners, while listening to a non-intrusive jazz soundtrack in the background, get a front-row view of the passing show of Itaewon.
The “unlimited premium wine” includes a decent house wine, generously poured and at the appropriate temperature. The food is varied, including traditional Korean food (kimchi? You betcha!),
southwestern chicken, snails with cream sauce, smoked salmon, multiple seafood dishes, LA galbi (marinated short-ribs) and a full range of dessert options including fruit, nuts, cheese, cake, pie and creamy gelato. A live band also plays a couple of Jazz sets from 7 – 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Price: Adults W39,000, Children W20,000
Includes: Unlimited house wine and buffet
Days & hours: Everyday, 6 – 9.30 pm
Address: 221, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
9. Park Hyatt Hotel’s Timber House | Gangnam-gu, Seoul
This is a unique option on the list. The Park Hyatt Hotel has decided to fuse the buffet concept with freshly prepared dishes, making it more of a dining experience. You don’t fetch your own drinks either, with the waiters and waitresses kindly delivering your beer and wine upon request.
The mini-buffet dining options are unique, with the emphasis on the rotating sushi and sashimi options. With one section of the Timber House being a dedicated sushi bar, you can count on fresh, delicious sushi. There’s also a fun variety of unique chips, including sweet potato, orange and pineapple chips.
Most of the dishes have a Japanese-infused touch to them, including the main courses. Your choice of mains includes either a sashimi rice bowl, pork belly and vegetable stir fry, chicken cutlet, or a noodle bowl. They’re all good, but the discerning palate will go with the sashimi bowl.
Includes: A light buffet, 3 passed dishes plus choice of one main dish, red, white and sparkling wines, Heineken draft
Days & hours: Monday – Friday, 6 to 8 pm
Address: 606 Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul