“Are you here for a haircut? Pick up a chalk and write your name on the blackboard. Blue’s for men, pink for girls,” a hairdresser explained as I entered from the café to the hip and minimal hair salon.
A true pioneer of modern out-of-the-box establishments, Hurwundeki is a combination of a 10-table café and a 4-man hair salon. It boasts cheap, fast haircuts and good Korean food and coffee, located underneath the railway bridges on Cambridge Road, in Bethnal Green.
Hurwundeki is well known among locals for their express dry 15-minute haircuts, £9 for men and £14 for women, and quite popular with Koreans for their food.
Juha Han, a drama student, who recently discovered this place, told me: “When I found this place, I didn’t expect it to be a Korean café,” and right she is, since Hurwundeki looks more like a car garage than a chic café.
A regular customer Charlotte Clark, volunteers at the Museum of Childhood and pops in to have their noodles: “I like the music, and how it looks – and I do get my haircut here as well.”
Owner Ki Lee, runs, owns, and cuts hair in Hurwundeki.
When asked how he thought up such a different concept, Ki replied, “Well, I have to survive. I have to make my wife happy.” His wife, Kyung Mee, busily working the cash register while rocking a gorgeous hairdo, was a sure testament for his skills.
“If you become a master hairdresser, other things are very easy to do” he smiled up at me while busily trimming hair.
Ki was originally a hairdresser but used to run a fashion label under the name Hurwundeki, that sold vintage boutique clothes in the same location and used to charge £80 per hair cut. That operation ended in early 2011 “due to financial difficulties,” according to his own post on the Facebook page, but he reopened with a new approach to hair and substituting the clothes for food.
Business seems to be picking up for Ki, as there were four hairdressers and a lengthy list of 20+ names scratched into the little blackboard, with a waiting time that could reach up to two hours on that sunny Saturday.
Luckily, the salon is attached to the café, encouraging people to order while waiting for their turn. Hurwundeki serves fresh, sans MSG Korean food for lunch and dinner.
Ki discovered that “Europeans are not used to Korean food for lunch. Too heavy,” so they offer ‘light’ versions of typical Korean dishes, such as bibimbap, the famous Korean hotpot rice dish,and jeon, or savory pancakes. To order, you take a pencil and circle the dish you want, all of which are customizable and range between a decent £5-7.
The salon closes at 8:00pm, forcing clients to come in earlier if they want to get a haircut, while the café remains open till 10:00pm.“I am a businessman,” he smiled, “I want it to be busy all the time, and not just evenings.”
Visit their Facebook page for more info: https://www.facebook.com/Hurwundeki