Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

The first time I checked out Ryse, Autograph Collection, was in June of 2018. My best friend in Seoul—she’s the former editor-in-chief of Nylon Korea, and I implicitly trust her taste—was excited to take me not to a hip new restaurant, boutique, or gallery—but a hotel. Even more interesting: we went there to literally break bread (Country Bread, to be exact) at Tartine’s Coffee Bar, an outpost of the famed San Francisco bakery by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson.

Because the majority of Seoul’s reputable properties are clustered in Myeongdong, Gangnam, and Itaewon, Ryse aimed to do something different altogether by taking risks with its address in a boisterous collegiate neighborhood, quirky design, and unapologetic embrace of youth-driven creativity. As it turns out, their instincts were spot-on: locals flocked in droves to the city’s first true lifestyle hotel.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago: I was pleased as punch to see none of that buzzy energy had dimimished since my initial visit. As I entered the lobby, this time around to crash for a few nights, I was greeted by the familiar sight of the glossy, baby-pink floors, mammoth Kwon Kyung Hwan steel sculpture, and of course, Tartine’s Coffee Bar.

My room, a Director Suite, was configured like an open studio. Similarly to the rest of the hotel, it channeled a cool, youthful vibe with a low-slung bed, modern furnishings, and original art like Risograph posters promoting sustainability. While my accommodations weren’t super-spacious, I had adequate room to carry on with my everyday life, from meeting deadlines to lounging around in front ot the TV. There were also other welcome touches like complimentary “Ryse and Shine” facial sheet masks, glass bottles with filtered water, and a reusable felt pouch stuffed with essentials you might have forgotten at home (toothbrushes, combs, and shower caps).

Eating and drinking well at Ryse come easily too, thanks to four distinct options. Since I was familiar with Tartine, I decided to scope out the other spots. One evening, an aunt and I ducked into Charr, the hotel’s all-day eatery, for a casual supper of tomato salad and two pastas—including an irresistible housemade tagliatelle smothered with savory meat bolognese. Another night, after a long day of work interviews, I beelined up to the swanky rooftop bar, Side Note Club, for a few scotches before bed. Though the space was pretty empty, the staff were attentive and chatty.

I still think fondly of Tokki Bar. Opened in the summer of 2021, the rustic space is the first Seoul-based venture for the Brooklyn-born soju brand. (Tokki is headquartered in Chungcheong now.) I rolled in with a group of gal pals after a lively dinner in Seongsu-dong, and we settled in with some signature ingredient-driven cocktails made exclusively with Tokki’s soju, gin, and vodka. Not long after, a group of guys rolled in—one of whom was Ryse’s super-helpful concierge. Before long: snacks were sent out, along with rounds of shots. The evening was impromptu, a bit rambunctious, and fueled with spontaneous laughter: just as Ryse would have it.

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