Monday, July 16, 2018

Drinking in Hanoi

It’s hard not to hit a few spots for coffee whilst in Hanoi – after all the country is famous for its coffee partly thanks to the French colonial influence, plus cafes are always a perfect sanctuary to hide away from the unbearable heat during the day for much of the summer season.

Cong Caphe is almost too difficult to miss – in downtown Hanoi and the Old Quarter area, they have one at almost every corner like the Starbucks we have, and it’s easy to spot with its guerrilla-themed décor and staff dressed in military-style uniform, an obvious play to many’s stereotypical impression of the country. It’s clear that they meat to attract the clientele of growing number of western tourists that flocked to the country in the decades or so.

That said, I did drop by once to get my morning coffee fix one day after some pho at a shop not far away, and it’s not all that bad. They have a wide menu of drinks from coffee to tea to juices, and seems to be reasonably priced. Not something particularly memorable, but at least this place (and the many franchise shops around town) can get your coffee crave fixed.

Where? Cong Caphe, 54 Hang Dieu, Hanoi, Vietnam

I am not sure how best to describe Ca Phe Trung, said to be a specialty drink in Hanoi. Directly translated as “egg coffee”, think of it as more like black coffee topped with egg nog foam on top. A few cafes around Hanoi are said to be expert of Ca Phe Trung, and each claimed to have invented this. Anyway, the one I went was called Café Pho Co right next to Hoam Kiem Lake, with the entrance curiously located inside a souvenir shop. Walking through the shop I found the entrance right below the patio inside an old house with the cashier/counter on the side. Choose what you want, pay, then “climb” upstairs through the narrow staircase to the dining areas at one of the floors, including the rooftop.

The décor was simple and resembles a rustic home with antique artefacts spreading across the wooden cabinets and tables, and the rooftop seats were chilled and relaxing, with patio chairs and tables, and offered a great view of the lake. There’s no air con but it was comfortable sitting under the shade with the gentle breeze coming from the lakeside. My coffee arrived soon after I sat down, and it was tasty. The combination of the intense black coffee plus the creamy, whipped egg yolk and condensed milk made this a rich and comforting drink to get away from the busy and hot streets and regained some serenity.

Where? Café Pho Co, 11 Hang Gai, Hanoi, Vietnam

Somehow, Café Runam reminded me of those historical cafes in Turin – those sitting next to Piazza San Carlo with a full menu of drinks and cakes. I desperately need a place to sit down and rest after much walking through the Hanoi streets in one morning and I saw this nice-looking café right across the street from St Joseph Cathedral and walked in. Beyond the fancy décor and the blowing cool air from the air conditioner inside, first thing that caught my attention was the brass colored Italian Elektra espresso machine sitting at the counter by the door. At the back of the café and upstairs with the balcony, there’s proper chairs and tables for more serious fare (a food and dessert menu was available), but I chose to sit at the lounge seats up front just for a simple cup of coffee. I went for an iced Vietnamese coffee and it’s presented in fancy ceramic cup and tray, plus the brass-colored phin filter specially designed by the café to match its interior color theme (and served with a small cookie too, which was delicious by the way). Perhaps it has something to do with me desperately needing some place to sit down and chill, I thought the coffee at Café Runam was the best cup I had while in Hanoi. In hindsight I should have ordered the cake as well, as the one on displayed at the glass cabinet looked promising. This is the perfect spot if you look to get away from the rustic and buzzling Hanoi street scene for some much-needed temporary relief to gather yourself.

Where? Café Runam, 13 Nha Tho, Hanoi, Vietnam

After longer-than-expected walk by the lake near my hotel - more to do with my lack of exercise than the physical distance - I came to Maison de Tet Decor for breakfast one morning. I found them randomly on Google Map when I tried to figure out a place for breakfast (my hotel rate didn't come with one) and this one seems close enough and interesting.

It's right by the West Lake inside an old house painted in warm, pastel color that gave you a Mediterranean, homey feel, plus the rustic, wooden furniture. The place operate both as an organic cafe and coffee roast house - I could see the big coffee bean roasting machine on the ground floor, and their food menu consists of interesting choices of healthy dishes, made mostly with local ingredients and change according to seasons. I went for the Ricotta Pancakes and a cup of Caffe Latte and both were spot on. I especially enjoyed the fluffy homemade pancakes served with fresh passionfruit and drizzle of honey, both from local farms, and they were obviously serious about their coffee, and my cup made with their house-blend was tasty and good-looking. I could sit here all day, just enjoying the food and the view of the lake through the window, or I was just reluctant to make my way back on foot in the heat (yeah, I got a Grab ride afterwards)

Where? Maison de Tet Decor, Villa 156 Tu Hoa, Nghi Tam, Hanoi, Vietnam

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