A Romantic Hideaway Right Near Home.
Article by: Becky White
Photos by: Becky White
Springtime in Seoul is magical. What with dream-like cherry blossoms blooming and a gentle breeze playing across the heartstrings of Seoulites, young and old alike, there’s no doubt that love is in the air. When spring rolls around in Korea, I am always overtaken by the desire to travel. Wanderlust and romantic thoughts are powerful persuasions to book a ticket to the nearest destination, but unfortunately work and obligations make an equally compelling reason to stay put. Finding L’Escape Hotel and staying there for a weekend offered the perfect solution.
Opened in 2018, L’Escape Hotel is a boutique hotel designed by the respected French interior designer Jacques Garcia and offers a unique, vintage-Parisian experience to the guest. Within the quiet hotel walls, culture, fine dining, graceful decor and unrivaled service are the norm. One can expect a private and luxurious time at L’Escape.
Upon entering the hotel, a proudly placed flower tree in the corner of the lobby caught my eye. The tree, designed by Tony Marklew, sweeps from the checkered tile floor to the ceiling, pink and white flowers exploding across the entire structure. It is a bold and beautiful signal to guests that you’ve entered L’Escape Hotel. I was greeted warmly at the main reception and handed a white envelope that held my room keys, and led to the elevator to go to my room. The elevator itself is mirrored and dim. “Etage dix-huit,” the elevator chimed as it reached the eighteenth floor. I stepped out into the hall and walked down the silent corridor towards my room.
I stayed in the Blue suite room, with a king-sized bed, private bathroom separated by a mirrored, folding partition, and a small sitting area furnished with velvety couches and plush cushions. Regal portrait paintings hung on the wall and the finely threaded tapestry-like decorations that cover every inch of the room looked like classic fairy tale drawings. Gold thread shot through the heavy fabric that hung above the bed offset the white sheets beautifully and the downy duvet was enticing already.
The bathroom is an absolute dream. An old-fashioned bathtub sits gleaming in the corner, bath salts placed on a metal tray that sits across the bathtub rim, tempting you to pull a hot bath and perhaps read a good book while doing so. The bathroom is elegantly designed and brightly lit, unlike the bedroom, which was dim when I entered due to the heavy curtains that block the sunlight from coming in through the large windows. The curtains, effectively preventing any stray sunbeam from waking a guest in the early morning, combined with the deliciously soft mattress and pillows makes for a sweet, dreamless sleep.
But there is much more to do than simply sleep at L’Escape. It is no common hotel. It boasts a fitness center outfitted with training weights, treadmills and spin bikes, a spa, restaurants, a tea room, a bar, and a library. In the surrounding areas, guests can stroll a few minutes and come across Namdaemun Market, where it’s bustling with shoppers at all hours, Noon Square and Seven Luck Casino.
The breakfast offered on the twenty sixth floor at the contemporary restaurant L’Amant Secret is an affair all by itself. The menu lists various dishes suitable for breakfast, with fresh croissants and butter elegantly shaped on a small dish. The coffee is brewed well; this all thanks to the infamous Hell Cafe that has a partnership with the hotel. One hot cup to go along with my granola, yogurt and fresh fruit made for a divine morning. Sunlight filters through the many windows that line the restaurant, and the view outside over the city is at odds with the lavish interior of the hotel. Looking outside at Seoul, while seated at my breakfast table gave me the feeling of gazing at a futuristic world while safely nestled inside a 1920s restaurant.
I strolled through the hotel, more content than if I were royalty surveying my private palace, and came across the library. Access is offered to suite guests only and is decorated with green lamps and dark wood, effectively making the space both sophisticated and cozy. Busts of authors and philosophers sit on the bookshelves and on stone columns, gazing around the library like Greek heroes. I felt drawn to stay for a while; it is hard to resist opening a book and reading in this quiet room. In the corner, next to a wide staircase that leads to the floor below, a grand piano sits, its black and white keys mirroring the black-and-white checkered tile theme of the hotel. It serves as a reminder of the kind of culture and class the hotel embraces.
There are two cafes on the seventh floor, both serving fine coffees and various drinks. One room is stylized with plush seating, ornately decorated mirrors and gold-gilded clocks, while the room adjacent to it is adorned with tropical birds and green, velvet chairs. The two different styles of interior serve to please guests with different tastes. Both are unique, both are sophisticated and both politely declare “luxury.” The cafe beside the library is cozier and feels warmer, thanks to the red and gold accents, while the cafe with the acrylic birds opens up to great windows with a view of the city. I came as the sun was setting, watching the warm, evening light glint off the tall buildings that surround the hotel.
Tiring of Western food for the night, I decided to enjoy my dinner at the Palais de Chine. This restaurant located within the hotel serves gourmet Chinese food in its exquisite space. The main room is grand, warm lights gleaming above the many tables, dimly lighting the restaurant in a romantic glow. The reflective tiles on the walls shimmer like shattered diamonds, and the murmur of conversation and clinking tableware is friendly and intriguing all at once. A private room off by the bar contains a large dining table where guests can have an exclusive dinner party.
After a many-course meal, each dish tastier than the one before, I headed back up to the twenty sixth floor and to my final destination of the night; Marque d’Amour. No stay at L’Escape Hotel is complete without a cocktail made by the head bartender Maxim. Being friendly with the bartender is a must, and here with Maxim it is hardly difficult. He hails from Russia and brings with him a vast knowledge of mixology and a generous hand. The bar is intimate, lush and classic. Where the rest of the hotel remains faithful to its vintage Paris design, Marque d’Amour breaks away a bit and plays more modern music, blending old European class and the excitement of a night out on the town.
Polishing off my last cocktail, created personally by Maxim, I yawned and said my goodnights to the bartenders. My king-sized bed was calling me and I had neither the will nor strength to deny sleep. Falling among the sumptuous blankets was the last thing I did before turning the lights off. The lamps dimmed slowly until the room was embraced by warm darkness. As I was closing my eyes, I savored the romance and luxury of the day I had spent at L’Escape, and soon I fell asleep.
Location: Toegye-ro 67, Jung-gu Seoul