When the nation went into lockdown in 2020, husband-and-wife team chef Daero Lee, and Illa Kim had to close their Surry Hills contemporary Korean restaurant SOUL Dining. Like most restaurants, they pivoted to takeaway and launched BOWL by SOUL— offering freshly made takeaway rice bowls. The pivot proved hugely popular with locals, many of who returned daily, to enjoy the affordable and authentic Korean rice bowls (deopbap).
The ‘takeaway’ from the pivot for Daero and Illa was discovering their customer’s desire to make Korean food a part of everyday life, not just a restaurant experience, plus a genuine interest in Korean food, culture and contemporary design. So, when the lockdown ended and they reopened SOUL Dining, the pivot concept evolved into SOUL Deli, their second (some might say ‘third’) venture together.
“We didn’t expect to open another venue, especially after only having SOUL Dining for two years, but opening the Deli proved successful, and we love that we can bring the Australian Korean community together here,” says Illa.
“We have a lot of friends who are creative, so we thought we could offer something unique if we came together—and that’s how it started.”
Situated near Taylor Square in the heart of Surry Hills, the new venue at 185 Campbell Street (on the corner of Little Oxford Street) has a fresh look with white interiors and accents of black— the perfect ‘canvas’ for showcasing their food, in addition to posters depicting iconic Korean food and scenes, created by German-Korean designers Sunny Yang and Ohyun Kwon from Gute Form.
You will also find a range of high quality ethically sourced packaged Korean food products carefully chosen by Daero that are essential for creating Korean dishes at home, as well as iconic fun childhood favourites, which will be comfortingly familiar for Korean ex-pats.
“We talked to our regulars and realised they were hungry for Korean food at home. They told us how much they love our kimchi and our sauces and how far they travelled to come here, so we thought we asked ourselves what else we can offer besides takeaway,” says Illa.
As a passionate chef with extensive knowledge of contemporary and traditional regional Korean cuisine, Daero makes it easy for customers to create Korean food at home by offering high quality freshly made ingredients and easy sous-vide meal and barbecue kits. For those new to Korean cooking, the deli’s dedicated team is on hand to provide advice on how to use products and give tips on ingredient pairing too.
The deli has a Kimchi bar offering a selection of homemade kimchi, three in different ageing stages, and fresh, seasonal kimchi, which are sealed in 500ml glass jars. Expect to find homemade tofu, and varieties of homemade pickles, which are readied for taking home in 500ml glass jars, vegan chilli and bulgogi sauces (including their ‘goes with anything’ fermented chilli sauce), and snacks such as seaweed crackling and freshly baked scones.
As Daero and Illa are passionate supporters of artists and designers from the local Korean-Australian community, the store also showcases fashion, art and homewares including the Bysin range by Australian-Korean fashion designer Stella Sin, and Misty Island ceramics and pottery by artist Woochang Kim.
“My friend is a fashion designer, and she jumped at the opportunity to make our uniforms, but we thought about taking it a step further to offer her designs to others,” says Illa.
“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since offering takeaway during the lockdown. Initially, SOUL Deli was going to be a bar—a place to have a drink, but we ended up with a cafe and we couldn’t be happier.”
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.
Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.