I recognized two things immediately upon entering the JW Marriott Seoul: 1) I felt underdressed; and 2) we were VIPs.
The JW Marriott is one of the higher end brands of the Marriott company. Two of the brands that they deem anywhere comparable are the Ritz Carlton and the Bulgari hotels. I did not even know that there was a hotel named Bulgari.
But, when we rode up to the JW Marriott Seoul, Korea in our taxi, with backpacks in hand, and saw the Bentleys and VIP limousine taxis in front, I looked down at my jeans, with a bit of tattering at the end, and my orange Uniqlo fleece, and felt underdressed.
Then, we walked into the grand lobby and all I saw was brass and marble. Businessmen and ladies who lunch. Suits everywhere. When I traveled for work in my former life, I would have walked into this lobby like I owned it, with my black wheelie suitcase and business card in hand. Well, who am I kidding, I never fit into that corporate world before either.
Being a VIP at the JW Marriott Seoul
As we approached the check-in desk, we hear “Mr. Hoffman, welcome to the JW Marriott.” Eric chuckled and looked quizzically, asking how they knew who we were. The front desk rep responded with a smile, “Oh, we know who you are.” Apparently, the staff had been told we were arriving, a couple of fancy travel bloggers, and that we should received top treatment.
And, yes, as bloggers, we had a somewhat different experience at the JW Marriott Seoul. We met several of the managers, including the General Manager, a bright and cheery Aussie, who even took time on our last morning to grab breakfast with us. We were greeted by the chef of JW Grill the night we had a decadent steak dinner. I certainly felt VIP, but there was something underneath the surface that impressed me the most.
Dining at the JW Marriott Seoul
In addition to cocktails and snacks on the 30th floor executive lounge, and the buffet breakfast downstairs, we had two chances to dine at the hotel, and experience the service JW Marriott is known for.
When we first arrived, it appeared that the lobby lounge was setting up for afternoon tea, but not just any normal afternoon tea. At the time, the JW Marriott Seoul was offering a Strawberry Afternoon Buffet, which was amazing. Strawberries are kind of a big deal in both Korea and Japan. The lounge was packed on this weekday afternoon with tables of ladies eating all sorts of strawberry treats.
We enjoyed fresh berries, cheesecake, red velvet cake, and all sorts of other berry specialities, all washed down with enormous strawberry mojitos. It was easily one of our most unique dining experiences we’ve ever had at a hotel.
And, after a particularly long day touring the DMZ, we knew we would be too tired to explore and find ourselves something to eat. Instead, we stayed in and dined at the JW Grill, on a tasting menu that satisfied all our expectations. We were promised great steak and great French onion soup. I was sold on the French onion soup, which is a comfort food that I often crave, despite the fact that I don’t like onions. I admit I am not always logical.
In addition to the French onion soup, our tasting menu included beef tartar and carpaccio, and a lump crab cake. We were offered American USDA prime steak as our entree course. Instead, we asked for the local Korean Hanwoo steak, Korea’s version of Japanese Kobe or Wagyu. The three different cuts of meat were delicately prepared and perfectly cooked. I thought I could not eat another bite, until two desserts were presented. Eric had to roll me out of there.
Just Plain Great Service at the JW Marriott Seoul
I don’t believe, though, that our VIP experience at the JW Marriott Soul came solely from our status as award-winning travel bloggers. Every person we encountered during our stay in Seoul was entirely gracious and welcoming, and this was especially true at the hotel. Service was top notch, which is to be expected at a high-end hotel chain. But this experience was entirely different.
The JW Marriott Seoul is clearly a business hotel, or a hotel for businessmen when they travel, or a hotel built on foundations of luxury. And, despite the reserved and elegant decor, the staff were friendly, offering suggestions on places to eat, and how to get around the city of 10 million people. We ate the best Korean BBQ in the city, based on a recommendation from management.
And, when we needed to escape the luxury, there was an immense food court in the mall underneath the hotel, where we dined on Johnny Rockets. You can always tell how long it has been since we have been back in the US based on the amount of comfort food we crave. Johnny Rockets, after the French onion soup, on top of the Taco Bell we ate when we stayed at the Courtyard Seoul.
Yeah, we were treated especially well at the JW Marriott Seoul, but I am convinced it was not hospitality that was bestowed upon us because we are travel bloggers. Instead, it is a Korean hospitality, that I just did not anticipate, which was carried through to the Marriott properties where we stayed. It was a hospitality that had me craving a return visit to to explore more of Korea.
We were supported by the JW Marriott Seoul during this stay, but all opinions are my own. Rooms at the JW Marriott Seoul start at around $205.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.