In terms of location, Four Seasons Seoul can't be beat. It's right smack in the heart of Jongno-gu, which is my preferred area to stay in when we make our yearly "pilgrimage" to Seoul. And it's only a short walk away to famous monuments and popular landmarks. Its surrounds are peppered with dining options galore, and the subway (which is idiot-proof really) is just minutes away on foot.
Service at the Four Seasons Seoul is consistently impeccable. There was that one time, when we'd gone to the concierge to ask for supper recommendations in the already-frigid Korean autumn. It was the dead of night, there weren't any other guests needing concierge assistance, and so the lovely chap actually walked us all the way to a nearby eatery; his "favourite supper joint" he says, and ordered our food for us because we could read no Korean at the exclusively local hole-in-the-wall.
We'd no idea what we ate, or what meat we were eating, but it was the most extraordinary soup ever. We learned later, upon our return to the concierge desk, that it was gamja-tang, and we'd feasted on the spine of a fatted pig. Suffice it to say, we're forever grateful for that recommendation. And yes, we've had it for supper every other night whenever we go back to Seoul.
You enter the hotel through several entrances. This is the main lobby from the drop-off porch and driveway outside. During the colder months, the glass fireplace helps warm up the imposing space.
There's the other entrance, a side door past the hotel's bar and cafe, and in the fall, you see temporary displays like this one, inspired by the colourful autumn foliage.
The check-in reception and concierge are situated between the two entrances. The English spoken by the front desk would put many Singaporeans to shame. Do ask them for restaurant recommendations. I've found that the Four Seasons Seoul concierge to have a reliably refined palate. Also their touring guides, a little off the beaten track with nary a stench of the tourist trail, have never missed the mark.
Our preferred option, as it's the largest of the non-specialty suites at 75sqm. All rooms in the Four Seasons Seoul are fitted out with an ipad mini which is connected to the wifi available throughout the hotel, including ordering room service; I think that helps increase efficiency, as our room service arrived barely 20 minutes after orders were made.
The suite is laid out in an open concept, and there's the one TV, the first facing the bed of course. The safe is disguised as a drawer in the console in front.
And there's the other one facing the living alcove. All TVs in the Four Seasons Seoul are amply-sized at 55".
The L-shaped couch is large and comfortable. The work desk is outfitted with an array of bells and whistles, from the standard USD ports and plug points, to the unexpected like a highlighter.
The bed, while no Tempur, is one of the most plush ones we've slept on. And there's a pillow menu, from which we got our neck support foam ones.
The entryway, which passes on the kitchenette and toilet after the walk-in closet. The full-length mirrors ae a plus, they let us review ourselves with a once-over, check our teeth, check our clothes, check our hair, before leaving the room.
The toilet functions as a sort of powder room on its own, as both doors on the side can be closed off (to the bathroom on the one side and the entryway on the other) and it's got its own sink. Four Seasons Seoul toilets are the Japanese sort, so expect heated seats, built-in washlets and an automatic lid. I don't know why they even provide toilet paper anymore, but I suppose some guests need that?
The walk-in closet was big enough to house our ginormous luggages. It's the first opening off the side once you enter the room, and leads into the bathroom.
The bathroom entry from the closet. First up on the right is the spacious shower and the left is the toilet. Further up are the tub on the left and the vanities on the left. This leads into the bedroom.
The shower, accoutered with Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze toiletries, boosts a rain shower (with a properly well-pressured flow and not that low-flow crap so I take forever to get the conditioner out my hair) and the shaving mirror. The Hubs hates it, he says it forces him to look at his body when all he's trying to do is get clean.
The bathtub may not look like much, but it easily fit two full-grown, stretched-out adults.
Double vanities, rigged out in every amenity conceivable. There's also a tv embedded between both mirrors, for convenient viewing while luxuriating in the bath.
The best part of the suite is really the spectacular panorama afforded by the unique wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. Don't worry about having to close off each window separately, the blackout and sheer rollers are remotely controlled by a button at the side. Prices start at 720,000KRW per night.
Palace-View Executive Suite
It's the oddest thing about this room option. Although the suite is (marginally) smaller, at 72sqm, it's priced more expensive at about 810,000KRW per night. I mean, yeah, all of its windows offer views of Gyeongbokgung, but the palace is a long way away, a tiny speck in the distance and the views are no more dramatic than from the Studio Suite.
We weren't crazy about the segmented layout of this suite, it makes this suite appear a lot smaller than it actually is. Only upside of the segmented layout is that the bedroom can be closed off entirely if you've guests over. But seriously, who's gonna visit us in Seoul that we need to do that? Anyway, the bedroom leads out to the the living lounge, once past the bathroom. And like the Studio Suite, privacy and blackout drapes are but a touch of the remote via switches on the sides of the windows.
Okay, the bathroom in this room is definitely more remarkable. There's an additional TV in this bathroom too, compared to the Studio Suite: the first is built into the vanity between the mirrors.
The vanity is opposite the shower stall, and there's the second TV right in front of the bathtub.
The lounge space on the one side and the work desk on the left, Behind that is a coat closet, which is such a nice touch.
The mini bar area is at the far end in front of the desk, stretching out between the three sections of the suite.
The extra 100,000KRW gives you this view from every room in the suite. "Where's the palace", you say?
There's it, the palace in the distance.
Welcome treats were laid out in the living rooms of both suites when we checked in.
So, this is some kind of Korean brewed tea called omija tea, or "five flavour tea". It's a traditional magnolia berry tea, possessing sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent notes, and purportedly rich in anti-oxidants. Whatever that is, it was refreshing and its zesty liveliness was just the perfect antidote to the flight in.
A modest platter of candied fruit and nuts for light bites. We weren't quite sure what we were eating, but they were yummy nonetheless.
And cookies ftw!!!!
The room service at the Four Seasons Seoul is one thing I think needs improvement. While the menu is decently varied, it turned out a mixed bag of hits and misses. And you're probably wondering, in a city that never sleeps and with 24-hour eateries lined all around the hotel, why we even bothered with room service? Because, we lazy AF, that's what. And to paraphrase my spirit animal Winnie the Pooh: "people always say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing all day". #napsftw
The Korean selection is surprisingly limited; it didn't have a lot of my favourite dishes and they weren't all that remarkable either. It's not to say that there was anything particularly off about the food; it's just that none of them were standouts.
The Dolsot Bibimbap (26,000KRW) was the best of the lot. The deceptively simple dish was polished and exquisite, each julienned vegetable perfectly symmetrical.
The Galbi-Gui (38,000KRW) grilled Australian beef ribs marinated in bulgogi were juicy, but at parts chewy.
The Hanwoo Bulgogi Stew (32,000KRW) was more like a stir-fry of octopus, glass noodles, leek, chestnut, carrots and jujube.
I'm a big big fan of porridge but the Abalone Porridge (22,000KRW) was disappointingly flat, it was a good thing the kitchen had soy sauce. This needed a good tablespoonful to kick this up several notches.
The Japchae (22,000KRW) was commendable. Mine's better of course (#savage) but this was a worthy rendition.
The menu also offers a few dishes from each of their in-house restaurants, and from their Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant Yu Yuan, we ordered the Seafood Chao Mien (28,000KRW) which was excellent. The fry-up was smoky and flavoursome, seafood trio of squid, scallops, and shrimp were cooked perfectly, and generous.
And from their Italian restaurant Boccalino, we had the middling Lobster Risotto (28,000KRW). This was more like tomato rice, we couldn't discern the bisque and there was barely the starchy oozy quality of a good risotto. And it was a little one-dimensional and needed a little pizazz, a little something-something to jazz it up. We just added a shit-ton of pepper.
The Mushroom Soup (18,000KRW) was an east-west fusion, with its use of shitake. Lovely, but unmemorable.
The must-try and highlight of the room service was the Tiramisu (16,000KRW). It was awesome. Luscious and heady and sumptuously drenched in coffee liqueur, this was one of the very best tiramisu we've ever had.
The complimentary bread was surprisingly good. Ciabatta minis, a crusty oat roll and butter roll, still warm and delicious with the softened butter.
I liked this thoughtful little touch, of complimentary chrysanthemum tea, apparently to wash down all of the grease we were indulging in the middle of the night.
The Four Seasons Seoul gym is by far the best hotel gym we've ever been to. Occupying the entire floor of the hotel, the sprawling 815 sqm gym is astoundingly well-equipped. Best of all, there were hardly any guests using this on the regular. Every time we've been here (which was every day of all of our week-long stays in Seoul), we've had the pleasure of having the gym (almost) all to ourselves.
The Hubs says the free weights here were some of the most comprehensive he'd seen in a hotel gym.
I really love how sun-lit the entire space is. It just makes working out that much more enjoyable, you know. In comparison, the basement level SICC gym at the Bukit location is hella depressing.
As with any self-respecting gym, there are complimentary towels, big and small, fluffy dry or moistened; headphones by the dozens so you don't have to reuse someone else's sweaty ones (coz that's eek!); and a variety of fruit-infused waters, and mineral water, both room temperature and icy cold for refreshment.
So many cardio machines and all spaced well apart so you don't smell the person next to you even if the gym is full. Seriously, if I had a dollar every time I had to work out next to someone who smelled like some rotting carcass who died of a combination of gingivitis and noxious body odour, I'd be a freaking billionaire.
The freestyle workout zone which is great for static exercises, as it's laid out with every equipment you possibly need. Well, for most standard exercises anyway.
And each cardio machine has its own tv screen, so important, and almost a necessity, a distraction for when you're huffing and puffing away on the treadmill.
But there's also a big screen for those who working out at the non-cardio weight section.
The view from the gym, which is on the 5th (or 6th?) floor of the hotel, may not be as grand as the ones from the room, but it's better for people watching on the busy streets below.
The gym also comprises an indoor three-lane pool, which is heated for year-round swimming.
Access to the pools (there's also a heated vitality pool, and a kiddy plunge pool) are through the respective changing rooms, and the far end of the gym.
There's also a sauna (on the right of the picture as there were 2 guests in it at the time the photo was taken; and while they were fantastic sports while I took these photos, photobombing with goofy grins and peace signs, I didn't think they'd appreciate me posting the photo on a public platform in their almost-birthday suits). Steam rooms and hot jacuzzis are in the respective changing rooms.
The Four Seasons club lounge is one of the better lounges in history. A restful tranquil space that never really seemed at 100% capacity, its perch on the top floor of the hotel affords the best views of the city.
Breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails are taken here. To date, we have woken up just once for breakfast. A complete writeup on the lounge offerings right here.
There are four full restaurants in Four Seasons Seoul. We've only eaten at Boccalino, the Italian restaurant at the 2nd floor, because I really didn't want to be eating an international buffet at The Market Kichen, or Japanese at Kioku, or Chinese at Yu Yuan. We're too old for buffets; we wouldn't generally eat Japanese food in Korea, of all places; and eating Chinese food when I'm travelling just smacks of a lazy, cloistered, and plebeian mindset.
Also, for some reason, Italian food is done very well in Seoul. There's a little Korean influence in the cooking styles of many Italian restaurant chefs, and it makes for quite the unique spin on traditional Italian cuisine.
But now that Yu Yuan has garnered a Michelin star, I just might opt to have a dinner there as well.
I loved this sculpture hung just outside Boccalino. It's blue, my favourite colour, and it's sparkly, and I love love love sparkly things.
Sunday champagne brunch in the works. A full review of dinner is here.
The adjoining bar at Boccalino.
There's also an open-air lounge somewhere on the 15th floor, I think. I'm not sure the purpose of this, as there's no adjoining restaurant or bar.
The vantage is gorgeous here too. Bring a jacket, it gets nippy here real quick because it's so open.
Four Seasons Hotel