30th April 2017, the last day of April that Hartell House will ever serve its renowned Sunday brunch.
Mr. Roger Counce and his wife who have been regular customers for over 20 years invited us today. Such brunch requires 1 week in advance registration (name and I.D. or passport number) and a dress code.
At noon Elena @elenaklinnert
, Jacco @jacco-zwetsloot
and the rest of the group we head towards gate 1 of Yongsan Garrison, the closest gate to Hartell House. Roger with his elegant off-white suit and matching hat comes from inside the base, the rest we are waiting outside. We go into the check point (a tiny room with a glass screen that takes you back to the 60’s) and we handle one by one our passport. “All ok” says the Korean security man after writing down our names, and we go through this metal full height turnstile like the ones at the zoo entrance in Barcelona when I was a child. The thought makes me put on a smile.
We walk up hill, cross to road that goes over the car bridge linking main and south post and we head towards what once was Japanese Division Commander’s residence during colonial period.
The drop-off has a small roundabout with manicured flowers and bushes and a sign saying Hartell House. The door handle, the design of the glazed door panels, the thick leaves pattern brownish carpet, the smell of the room mixed with familiar food smells (no kimchi smell at all), the timber paneled walls… it feels homey and welcoming, It transports you to a good American restaurant from the 70’s. At the reception we read a sign that says the 1st of June 2017 Hartell House will be closing its doors. I wonder what people like Roger feel about it.
The room is busy with different groups of older and younger people, some Korean some western. There is a pleasant atmosphere, different from all the places I have visited in Seoul. Our table is in the main room, at the back left corner by the large window. Right next to the seafood counter.
After a brief explanation that Roger gives us about the different food that is served as buffet style we all go and fill up our dishes. All the staff that I saw was Korean but they all spoke perfect English. I heard that some of them have been working here for 20 years. They must feel very attach to this place, what will they do after its closure? I try to speak to one of the waiters serving behind the meat and omelets counter but soon after some customers approach so I just smile at him and return back to my seat.Eric Newland, a very talk American Colonel who is currently based in Yongsan Garrisson overlooking at the medical department, is sitting on my left hand side. I enjoy listening to his life experiences around the world with the army.
Two and a half hours later we are all happily set, having enjoyed deserts and coffee too Roger suggests going and seeing the sign that has been placed in front of two buildings that were built by the Japanese. I remember Kim ChunSoo @taebaek-kim mentioning about this project that He was also involved with.
Elena and I say bye to everyone and we head back to gate1. There is still a very long line of people waiting to go inside. Most of them carried sports bags or equipment so I guess they were going to play some match. We are back in Seoul, According to the wall signage we have been 3 hours inside U.S. territory. I am very happy having been able to experience a regular Sunday brunch at Hartell House before It is history. Today is a beautiful Sunday.
30th April 2017_ Photo by Elena Klinnert Note by Coco Cugat