• Jessica Chung (left) and the team from Caravan restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. (Sharyn Cairns)
"Introducing the Australian way of eating and dining is definitely a concept in itself for Koreans to try to understand... You Australians drink coffee with your food?"
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

4 Oct 2017 - 2:32 PM  UPDATED 5 Oct 2017 - 2:10 PM

Going out for a brunch of avocado on toast and a perfectly brewed flat white is a weekend ritual for many Australians.

However, it's not such a common concept in South Korea, where Jessica Chung was born.

So when she and husband Adam Kane packed up, left Australia and moved to Seoul, the casual cafe experience was something they missed.

"We ourselves would wake up on a Saturday morning and want to go somewhere for breakfast and coffee," Chung recalls, "or have a casual mid-week lunch and a glass of wine, with very few options in the type of atmosphere that we were looking for."

Necessity is the mother of invention, and Caravan was born. Chung and Kane say they have always loved food and wanted to work with food, but were waiting to find the right concept.

"Connecting with people through food is what comes naturally to us," Chung says.

She describes Caravan as an all-day casual dining experience with a focus on quality ingredients, which serves diverse food that recognises the cuisines of the world and pays tribute to the way Australians eat.

"Introducing the Australian way of eating and dining is definitely a concept in itself for Koreans to try to understand. 'Greek, Italian and Thai influences next to superfoods, poached eggs, sausages and coffee? You Australians drink coffee with your food?'" Chung says.

"There is definitely occasional bewilderment on the customers' behalf. That's why our staff have become amazing cultural ambassadors and story tellers to the very multicultural Australian story.

"Most Koreans seem to think that Australian food is all about barbecues... funny because most Australians would think that Korean food is mostly all about barbecue!"

At Caravan there is a strong emphasis on breakfast, where you can get some classic Aussie banana bread, a bircher muesli made with yoghurt, coconut, summer fruits and toasted seeds, or a plate of Turkish baked eggs, served with spinach, spicy tomato sauce and dukkah.

Their all-day menu features fish and chips and seafood linguine alongside curry fried noodles and thai yellow chicken curry. 

The design of cafe, which is situated in a young, indie arts and music district of Seoul called Hapjeong, was inspired by the Aussie caravan holidays of her youth. The vision came to her while she was listening to 'Do It Again' by Steely Dan, 'Fly Like An Eagle' by Steve Miller Band and Roxy Music's 'Love is the Drug' at 2am.

"One minute I'm singing along quite badly, the next I can sense the spirit embodied in this tiny little cafe that serves avocado on toast and chai tea to the neighbourhood," Chung says.

"I knew those three songs captured perfectly the mood I wanted to create through the interior."

So Chung recruited interior designer David Flack of Melbourne's Flack Studio to bring her vision to life.

She says the name Caravan is designed to evoke a warm, authentic and transportable experience - love, fun, good food and adventure.

The cafe is filled with Australian art and furniture to give diners a connection to other aspects of Australian culture. 

Chung says the mantras that govern the way they operate at Caravan are "don't take the easy road", "value diversity and different thinking"  and "be nice to people". 

And it seems to be resonating with their Korean customers. 

They are currently building their second Caravan cafe in the "glitzy end of town" which is full of fashion flagship stores and fast cars.

"We've somehow landed in the hottest street in the hippest quarter, and we can't wait for the dichotomy of managing the friendly local vibe of where we are now, to the more grown up sister cafe," Chung says.

"Oh and we're opening a bakery early 2018 too."

Chung denies they've got Seoul domination in their sights, but she admits "Koreans seem to really be enjoying the concept."

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