We are recording 24h of Seochon. We select the places that stand with the time in Seochon dividing into morning, afternoon and night. As the third stop, here we introduce the Spanish restaurant ‘Gomis’ which lights up the evening to the early morning of Seochon.
Q. Hello, please briefly introduce Calle de Gomis.
“Calle des Gomis literally means Calle de Gomis (road), and the Gomis road is in Barcelona. There is only one mountain in Barcelona, at the back like this. The Gomis road is under the mountain, facing the sea. It has a great view. You can see the Mediterranean sea as well. It is the name of the road where I used to live with my wife.
Q. Did you meet her there?
“No, I met her long times ago and Calle de Gomis is the place we lived together. Number one and two overlapped because I stayed in Barcelona for two years and I loved it so much. So I wanted to create a space to share Spain experience with people who love Spain since I like it so much.
Q. Space to share Spain experience?
“Yes, there are many reasons that I like Spain including football, and tennis, I play tennis and my favorite player is from Spain, and it’s Catholic country which is my religion. I have so much things in common with Spain. That’s why I built this space.
Q. Then why did you choose food and drink as the contents to share Spain experience with many people?
“Well there is nothing better than drinking to make conversations with people. The quickest way to get closer. In addition, Square culture, bar and pub culture are well developed not only in Spain but also in Europe and the US. They drink beer and wine from the morning and have a chat. I didn’t know what they are really thinking but they seemed relaxed. It looked very nice and I spent a lot of time there as well which was fantastic. It’s so opposite of Korea, like almost it doesn’t make sense. It is not possible here.
Q. Sounds like such a chilling life.
“Yes, it’s very relaxing, although they don’t own much.
Q. Then do you have any reason of choosing Seochon?
“Speaking of Seochon, it’s a long story. I was living with someone else in Korea and came back to Korea. Here, my wife had to find a job and so did I. I already had a plan to open a restaurant when I moved from Spain though. I wanted to work at a Spanish restaurant and my wife was looking for a place to work. I started working in Samcheongdong and my wife found a job at Korea History Museum near Gwanghwamoon. Since we got jobs, we needed to find a house. We didn’t want to go to Gangnam, so we went to see Oksu which is the very north part of Gangbuk. Then we moved to Hongjae. However, personally, it was so weird to live in Hongjae. I was like ‘man, I can’t do this’. In conclusion, I moved back here (Seochon). It just felt right. I almost gave up after I dropped by several real estate agencies. However, one of them said ‘well there is one Hanok though,’ and we continued the conversation and I signed the contract at last. It was in 2013 which makes that I’ve been living in Seochon for 7 years. I still remember what the agency told me, ‘ this area is more expensive than others.’ That was his first sentence.
Anyway, I started living in a small Hanok and I’m currently living in Okindong and Suseongdong area. Seochon has its own mood. I have a place in Bukchon as well but it feels different. Here, seems like a real village. On the other hand, Bukchon is a touristic place. I don’t really understand the residents in Bukchon saying that it’s too noisy to live. I don’t think many people go there… well this area is quite noisy for sure. Although there are not many tourists, it was noisy before. Anyway it feels more like a village and the local residents say the farthest place they usually go out is Gyobomoongo (A huge book store near Gwanghwamoon). There is everything within that distance. They say it’s too tiring to go further than there, it’s too crowded and exhausting even in Myeongdong. It’s not even 3km away from here by lineal distance. If you live here, you get this much affection for this area. That explains why we’ve lived here for 7 years and we chose here for our first house after marriage, and my first and second kids are living in this village. Most of all, I don’t have any plan to leave.”
Q. Seems like there is no better place than here.
“No there is not. I’m in the early 40s and this place reminds me of the area I used to live when I was a child. I’m not sure if we saw, but there are lots of kids playing around. It seems like I’m looking at my childhood. It really does. I guess that’s why I like this place a lot.”
Q. Alright, let’s move on to the next question. I see the interior us so attractive at each corner of the place. I can feel the preference and affection which makes me wonder your preference that have had influenced the appearance of this place.
“Well, if we talk about preference, most of them are affected by mine. My wife actually doesn’t really like these stuff. She thinks it’s dirty. Yeah, all of these are my preference. It’s a different story though, my wife and I don’t interfere each other much. We take care of own stuff. Anyway, as you can see, from the muffler of FC Barcelona, that’s from a customer, to that Messi poster, there are quite a lot of maniacs in this area. Actually in Europe, you become a fan of one football team until you die. At first I thought that they really like football but actually, it’s just their life. For example, there are two football clubs in Barcelona, Espanol and FC Barcelona, since the grown-ups are living in that life, it naturally becomes the life of the children as well. It is so natural. I envy them. It is so nice that they got various things which are highly likable, in their daily life naturally forming individuals’ identities. While we have to find something, like I want to do this kind of thing but don’t know how and have to try to look for it. However, there are just everywhere in Barcelona. I could just do it, and it was so nice. From another point of view, there might have been too much contents, but at the same time, it’s just their way of life which is great. As football is their part of life, I became interested in it. I was living in a sharehouse, the one like in Korea, and I got influenced by the Catalan friends. Actually I already liked Barcelona since I was in Korea, but I got more into football as a part of life. If you go to Nou Camp to watch the match, they give out this flag, the Catalonia Independence Flag. I displayed these items because they give me nostalgia of the time in Barcelona.”
Q. Then do you try to create something to your children that they can be affectionate about?
“No, I don’t force them. Forcing I’m talking about is religion. I’m Catholic and so is my wife but we never force our children to go to Catholic church. In the end, they are gonna make choices by themselves. I don’t want to force them to do something but instead, I want to build the base for them. For example, if I carry on doing my stuff, my kids might do it or not. If I play tennis, then I could bring them to the court together. Like this, I want to provide chances for them to have a variety of experiences.”
Q. did you draw these paintings by yourself? (the characters on tissue paper)
“These are from my sister in law. All of my sisters in law live here. I hate it. Just kidding. One of them is an illustrator. She gave it to me as I told her that I was going to open a restaurant. The pictures in the menu are my works. I asked several people around including the sister in law, but I was not satisfied. There is something I wanted to fix but I couldn’t get satisfying result even after continuous explanation and I kept spending money for it. So I decided to draw by myself although it might have been messed up.
Q. I thought you majored in this field.
“No, I majored in engineering.”
Q. Moving on to the next question, Seochon has stronger identity compared to other areas, do you think there is a reason behind?
“Well, first of all, I think there are influences by people moving in here following the reputation. However, it might not make sense since many of the residents have lived here for a long time. And quite many people came here because they like the area. A number of people left though. A lot of great professionals left.
As I said just now, there are people move in because they like here, and the second group of people would be the ones looking for business opportunity and it’s like, I don’t know, it’s little bit hard to explain. Well I think these two are the biggest influences. Or there are people who have grown up here and run their businesses. I’m not sure though. Maybe there are more distinguishing places in other areas. I guess the reason why people come to this expensive area to open a business is because they like here. I’m one of them as well. To be honest, I considered leaving here like thousand times. Because it is not an area where you have many customers or visitors, compared to high rent. It’s a residential area. Despite all of these, people don’t leave because it’s an attractive area.”
Q. I think the biggest characteristic of the stores in Seochon is that they are not likely to open in the morning.
“It’s like Europe.”
Q. It’s so chill.
“They don’t open in the morning and close early in the evening.”
Q. I wonder if you are trying to keep things slow as well.
“Yeah. I have two kids and I feel bad for them because I can’t spend time with them a lot since I work in the evening. People here, including myself, are like this because there are not many visitors in the morning. In addition, the people running their businesses here have certain mindset which is ‘if I do, I do. If not, then I don’t’. In other words, they have enough time and money. Also they care about themselves. Moreover, actually, if I want to have a long run, I can’t push myself too hard. If I do, I might die.”
Q. You get burnout.
“I already had burnout before. I even diagnosed panic disorder from hospital. Considering that I get this much stress, it is important to not to do too much, to run longer. I think I get tired of myself as I put too much efforts everyday. You know, running a business shows direct result. You see the numbers immediately and the feeling of loss is huge if the result is under your expectation. Moreover, the customers who have conversations and drinks are all gone at the end of the day, no matter how many they come. It feels so empty. very empty. I feel exhausted going through this everyday. If I suppose I live intensively everyday with assumption that I get many customers, I don’t think I can do that. It’s bad for myself as well as for my family. If I get sick, it would also have negative impacts to the customers. I won’t be friendly to them if my condition is bad. Yeah, it’s like this. I’m not sure if others have the same thought but I guess that’s the reason to relax a little bit.”
Q. Let me ask you different question. You’ve lived both in Barcelona, Spain and Seochon, Seoul. Are there things in common?
“Common characteristics; relax and individualism. Myself is the top priority. Anyway you live this world alone. The people in both areas tend to have this kind of mindset.
Q. That’s interesting. I’m not sure if it is like those people gather here or the area itself makes this kind of atmosphere.
“I think those types of people gather in this area. I don’t know the reason though. I guess it’s just the feeling of the village. Or it might be from the relaxing mood that you only can feel in the area without tall buildings. I get surprised when I go to places with a group of apartments. Like, man, it’s so high. You can see the buildings are very tall in Seodaemoon which is not far from here. I felt sorry when those apartments were built because there used to be many houses with pretty red bricks on the same spot where the buildings are standing. You see, they are all gone now.”
Q. I heard an interesting story recently. People who study in Europe go to Seochon while the ones who study in the US go to cities.
“Well America suits better in Gangnam.”
Q. Talking about the Calle de Gomis in the past, you operated the restaurant as well as other activities such as opening Spanish classes and running a cafe. Do you focus on the restaurant due to certain circumstances?
“No, it’s not like that. I was in Chaebudong before. I used to run a Hanok restaurant there. The opening hour was shorter, about 5 hours I think. I was working there and when I moved here, the place was a cafe. Considering it was originally a cafe, I thought ‘it’s better to make some coffee rather than just doing nothing, and there is no decent cafe around’. That’s how I started a cafe and I got a friend of mine who did coffee. Look around here. There are at least 10 cafes within 300m. It was too competitive. On top of fierce competition, the concept of this place was not clear enough to be a cafe. I might have had a better business if I sold some alcohol during the daytime but, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to start business from the morning.
The Spanish class is just stopped for the moment. The Spanish teacher went back to Spain and a Korean one came but he moved to another place. The study group still remains though. It’s already been 3 years. We are actually preparing the classes to resume in this fall. Like I did once in Bukchon last time, the wine class is planned in October at this place. I don’t know if I really can proceed, I’m contacting Flamenco performers. There are two performances I’ve wanted to arrange at my restaurant which are Flamenco and classical guitar. I hope this place to become the point where you can have all the experiences and contents related to Spain. Because I like them and I want to share what I like with other people. Therefore, I am preparing all of these.”
Q. That sounds like a fun.
“It is. However, many people get drunk in wine classes, so the end is like…”
Q. How is the process of the wine class?
“Well, it was my first time. I selected several types of wines and tried them with introduction. There are some simple food as well. When I did it in Bukchon, the boss of the wine store had a passion and he brought 10 different wines, but we only got 10 participants who got all drunk at the end. You know, it’s alcohol. No wonder they were drunk since they finished 10 bottles with 10 people within 2 hours. They put their arms around together and went for the second round. Without me. Anyway, as Spanish wine is less famous than the ones from France or Italy, I choose the wines based on the wines I sell here. Like this one. You are welcome to join it next time.
Q. Do you have regular guests while running Calle de Gomis?
“Of course. The unmarried couple who visited here when it was first open, still come. Well there are a lot. However, the criteria of loyal customer is not clear. For example, some people think once a year makes themselves loyal customers and some might consider several times a month does. The one I remember the most is a couple who’ve been coming here since it was in Chaebudong. Many couple suddenly stopped visiting as well. Sometimes I was wondering ‘why are they not coming anymore?’, then only one of them showed up after breaking up. I guess they are like ‘well I can go by myself.’”
Q. Hahahaha :D
“And many people come for blind dates. I don’t know why. I personally think that blind date should be at a very calm place where the tables are keeping distances, but this place is not like that. We even don’t receive any reservation. There was a guy who almost begged me to keep a table because he got a blind date.
Working in this field makes me recognize the customers on the street who might have come quite often. I wouldn’t call it as a survival strategy, but it is important to make them feel recognized even though I don’t drink together with regular guests. That would be too much. I read it somewhere, ah, it’s what Mr. Baek Jongwon said.
It’s fun working here. I went to Gaudi tour when I was in Spain, and what made it interesting was that I didn’t know what kind of people would come tomorrow. You know, a group of totally different people come. I think that’s fun, and same here. I have expectations of ‘what kind of customers would come?’. It’s fun to meet people. When I hire a part-timer, I have a chat from 30 minutes, If I go short, to more than an hour. The ones who got hired and started working told me that ‘Boss, please go shorter for the next person. I’ve never had this long job interview.’ I mean, aren’t people curious? How do they make decisions only after 10 to 20 minutes of conversation? I don’t understand. The impression is highly important, and you get it while talking to them. I do the long interview because I have to catch that. In addition, I feel curious and interested in that person’s story, like how come this buddy ends up here. We have never met each other before and no relationship between us, but we only have a chance to meet just for work. It’s very interesting. Yeah, that’s another fun part. Of course there are some lousy customers. Those guys who get drunk and rude looking for soju and stuff. I kick out immediately if they get rude.”
Q. That must be tough.
“It rarely happens. Like it barely happens once a year. When the customers enter and see me, they became quiet. They stay quiet and leave. They leave directly when I tell them to leave since it’s closing time.”
Q. Then instead of memorable customers, do you have any close stores in Seochon?
“Yes, I had a few places and I do now as well. I go along well with ‘Common 5’ and ‘Caravan Fly’ down there. They opened around the time when Gomis was open. We’ve been close till now. There used to be more, but they are gone now. When I say close relationship means that I know well and feel close which includes these two places and I don’t really want to know the others. Not only I don’t have much time to get to know each other and I have a stereotype toward the shops that came after me. Because they are changing too fast. Although I find some places that I want to get closer, suddenly they are not there anymore.”
Q. You open at 6:30pm until midnight, could you please tell us your daily routine?
“It’s almost 12 o’clock when I finish the day. I usually sleep around 2 in the morning, but still wake up around 7:30. That’s because my children have to go to preschool. And it’s around 8:30 after dropping them. Then where I go now is to play tennis. it gets a little before 10. From this time, I start to get ready to go out, buy ingredients at the market, prepare stuff and drop them to restaurants. The Bukchon one opens from 3 and if we talk about Seochon, it opens at 6:30, so this much is the preparation time and this much is the operation time.”
Q. You would have the evening view of Seochon as you open late in the afternoon.
“Yes there is. For me, it’s all fixed. The frame is set from there to here. Seochon’s view… my favorite time these days is when I drink beer outside of the restaurant after work. Since there are no people on the street, it’s quiet and I like it that I don’t hear any car sound.
When I’m getting ready in the daytime, some ladies looking around the area pass by, the students from Baehwa women’s high school come down in the afternoon to go home, and after a little while, the buses are packed with people, who are on the way back home after work. Besides these, I don’t really have time to look outside during the operation hours. It is impressive that the people in the bus don’t have emotions in their faces. That brings a lot of thoughts, such as why do they live like that, what do they live for. I’m not saying live like me, since I have the same thought for myself, why am I doing this… impressive.”
Q. Do you have any drink or food of Calle de Gomis that you want to recommend to people who are wrapping up their day?
“Beer, the joy of beer is nothing else but, it reminds of relax. The good thing of beer is short relaxing and fresh feeling and most of all, there is no pressure to drink it. The pleasure that a 300mm or 500mm can of beer can bring. And the tipsiness. I think that’s the joy of beer, well we got plenty of beer so, I would suggest Spanish beer maybe? A glass of wine is also nice but personally I feel like beer gives more. It seems like I have to know a lot of stuff and follow certain manners. No one has asked for a glass of wine here yet.
At the Bukchon one, foreigners ask for it time to time but not here yet. Instead, sometimes there are people asking for a glass of beer. They might have been through various stuff or not but it can be stressful just by going outside and being there. I also get nervous when I come to the restaurant. This nervous feeling tend to get eased as getting closer to home and you will feel more comfortable to grab a beer before going home. It doesn’t guarantee a brighter tomorrow but it is already worth it if it can relieve even a little bit of stress.”
Q. Do you have a signature menu at Gomis that you want to introduce?
“A popular menu is Pincho, you can imagine a finger food to understand it better. A variety of ingredients are put on a piece of bread and the most popular Pincho is the one with avocado and hamon. Recently people look for Gambas al Ahio a lot since it became very famous. We call it Baekban. Ah, the set menu. We get it if people say Gomis set.”
Q. I wonder if you try to keep the original flavor of Spanish cuisine or adjust it to Koreans’ taste.
“I would say both. Well, the menus I tried to save all disappeared now. At first, I only sticked to Spanish way and had to pay my lesson. It was too salty and people are not likely to try new flavor. it seems that they don’t give a chance to the food they have not tried before. Current menus are adjusted little bit, such as putting less salt and stuff, but most of them are original Spanish. The ones that have survived are very common even in Spain. I don’t get reaction if I try just little bit unique. I have to compromise. I was angry at the beginning like ‘what do you know’, but I understand them. Whether they’ve been to Spain and tried it or not, and even if it’s real Spanish taste, it might not match their tastes. As it’s a restaurant for public, I can’t sell only what I like. However, I don’t provide something solely because the customers want it. We don’t sell Paella here. Why not? Because I don’t. I don’t like Paella and I’ve never thought that Paella is that delicious. It also takes too long to cook. For many reasons, I don’t do Paella as well as there is no proper meal menu.”
Q. It’s a different question, have you ever had Spanish customers having food and conversations with?
‘Yes, I have. Quite many times, even when I was doing cafe here as well. There is a combination of espresso and cognac called ‘Carajillo’. Pouring cognac into hot espresso brings strong flavor. I used to have the hot version only. One day, a customer from Argentina asked me why there is no cold one. I told him ‘what are you talking about, there is only hot one.’ and he said ‘yes, there is a cold version’. So I asked him to teach me how to make one and he did. Then I put it on menu later. This is one the cases. However, the Spanish people don’t tend to talk about the food. Because it’s what they’ve had all the time. It might be different but they don’t tell me. One thing clear is that foreigners give very generous compliments. Their expression is different when the food is served and their reaction is… Once the food is out, they look at me and say something like ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’ a lot. I feel like they truly mean that since I hear too much of those. Anyway, I have much of these experiences. Spanish people saying ‘thanks for the food’ and leave, I guess that’s it? The Argentine guy was the only one to give coaching to my food.
Q. What is your opinion of that Seochon keeps changing?
“Even two hours are not enough to talk about this topic. If I go straight to the point, it’s negative. Change itself is good but I don’t like the speed and the intent of the people who make changes. I was an outsider as well and of course the area changes with people moving in and out. However, the people recently moving in seem to have a purpose, similar to the ones who used to play with the key money before. It’s not a good news for people who already live here. If you see the Okin road, there are many empty spaces. It’s very messy, which is not good. If they come with the mind of staying here long, but it’s actually the opposite which makes us not very pleasant. I don’t think it’s a good change.
Q. What would be the image of Seochon that you want?
“It can be a contradiction, but I hope it remains as a residential area. From the view of people running businesses here, it might be negative as the flow of visitors significantly decreased compared to before. On the other hand, the local residents are saying that it was originally like this before and it’s been weirdly crowded. I’ve stayed here for 7 years and I hope it remains like now. I agree that there are a bit too many shops but I think the current status is just right. It’s like a village where the residents have various places to use. I hope it doesn’t disappear.”
Q. Can you make an acrostic poem with Seochon?
“Let me think about it…”
Q. Please let me know if you are ready.
“It’s the most rustic area in Seoul, what I mean is that it’s not outdated but it’s classic! The feeling of the village in time when people in my age were kids! To put it simply, it’s rustic like ‘Answer’ series*. I hope it stays like this. I’m not happy with the more and more tall buildings keep appearing.
INTERVIEW DATE / 2019. 09. 11
INTERVIEWEE / Calle de Gomis
INTERVIEWER / Won, Wan
Edited by | SEOCHONYOOHEE Photo by | SEOCHONYOOHEE
Text and photos in this post may not be used without permission. For requests and questions about utilizing content, please contact email@example.com.