The owners behind SOUL Dining, Daero Lee and Illa Kimin, have opened their second venue SOUL Deli in Surry Hills’ bustling dining precinct. In contrast to their restaurant’s interiors boasting a dull and muted colour scheme with tones of dark charcoal, matte greys and velvet blues, the deli is their white haven of simplicity offering bakery sweets, premium coffee and creative products by local artists and designers.
The concept of SOUL Deli came about as a result of Covid. Their restaurant quickly began offering takeaway (called BOWL by SOUL) and where regulars expressed how much they loved that it was a daily meal concept, which meant Korean cuisine could be part of their ‘everyday’ life. The SOUL Dining team developed a line of vegan sauces that they used for the (BOWL by SOUL) lunch and dinner bowls, with many customers revealing they wanted to actually buy the sauces. The regular feedback had Daero and Illa realise there’s a need for Korean food and culture, and this evolved into a deli concept where people can access daily Korean food offerings, both for dining in and takeaway.
SOUL Deli offers food and products in three different categories:
1. Fresh Food:
Their Kimchi Bar has vegan 'red' kimchi, vegan 'white' kimchi and one seasonal kimchi. On top of that, there’s also their soy-sauce based traditional pickles made inhouse, freshly made Korean rice cakes from local 'Tteok-Bang', cafe and brunch classics with a Korean twist, Korean bowls with an emphasis on vegan and vegetarian options, and drinks with a focus on natural ferments.
2. Packaged Deli goods
Their packaged goods vary from in-house Korean Sauces (Vegan Bulgogi Sauce, vegan Goes With Anything fermented Chilli Sauce, and Fire Chilli Sauce), meal and BBQ Kits, and curated food products from Korea.
3. Family & Friends of SOUL Deli / Goods
During the development process, Illa and Daero realised how many amazing small businesses, artists and products there are from the local Korean community. SOUL Deli showcases them in various ways, some of them in a collaboration, others as part of their product offerings. Examples are: bysin (SOUL Design Goods by fashion designer Stella Sin), Misty Island (ceramics and pottery by Woochang Kim) and Gute Form by graphic designers Sunny Yang & Ohyun Kwon).
Illa says: “We always thought that we would like to expand our business to show what else Korean cuisine and culture can offer in the Australian market. Whilst we try to show how much depth and quality Korean food can have with SOUL Dining, we realised how much fun we can have within our team and bring more diversity to our customers by offering a more casual menu. We also believe that selling food means selling a cultural experience. We find pride and joy in introducing yet unknown aspects of Korean culture and bringing it together with the Australian way of living. This is what we try to achieve by creating a BBQ kit, mixing local produce with Korean flavours, trying to find Koreans who found their own identity in Australia.”
We came into SOUL Deli for a mid-week brunch – which, after our experience, we realised was the ultimate way to embrace hump day. We began with a round of coffees (a cappuccino and strong almond latte). SOUL Deli work with Primary Coffee (owned and led by Dan Kim) which is a local, Korean-Australian micro-roaster located in Potts Point, who only uses ethically sourced high quality beans. There truly was a difference in the taste and for all the right reasons. Their smooth-blended, premium coffees were right up our alley with their slightly nutty and smoky aromas – something any coffee-lover would appreciate first thing in the morning.
We shared the House-baked Korean scone paired with a handcrafted salted cultured butter from Meander Valley and a tomato jam. I’ve experienced my fair share of high teas and this was by far the tastiest and most unique scone I’ve ever had, especially with its complex pairings: the cultured butter and its sweet and savoury jam. The scone itself boasted a beautifully crisp exterior and a doughy, buttery inside. It was utterly moorish – and we unapologetically polished off the plate, even though we knew we had a hefty number of dishes to come.
We next sampled the sourdough toast topped with avocado, bacon, eggs and hash brown: a contemporary brunch feed that you can’t usually go wrong with. This was one of the more Western dishes on offer – a great choice for those who don’t wish to try something new, and can have guaranteed reassurance that it’s absolutely delicious. We also had the house-made tofu with an old school soy sauce dressing as a side dish which we ultimately fell in love with – fantastic for those desiring a light option.
We then tried the house hotcakes with butter, maple syrup and Kentucky fried chicken: a beast of a breakfast item boasting bite and beauty. The fried poultry pancakes topped with syrup (a fusion of burnt caramel with nutty notes) was the fan-favourite at our tables for two; a highly recommended item.
To finish, we had the kimchi and pork belly toasted sandwich – a brave fusion of flavours. The pork belly was cooked to perfection with a subtle spice to it, and paired perfectly with the buttery bread that was toasted well, cheese sensually oozing out. An incredibly satisfying sight; the definition of food-porn. It was the perfect end-note to our glorious brunch experience at the alternative Surry Hills deli.
The warm sweet and savoury goodness to be relished at Daero and Illa’s second venue will satisfy your unique cravings – whatever they may be, as there truly is something for everyone. The future of brunch is here at SOUL Deli, and will leave you content, well-fed and with a strong yearning to return.
SOUL Deli is open Wednesday – Sunday, 8am - 6pm.
Shop 1, 185 Campbell Street Surry Hills.