Hanoi is THE city of cafés in Vietnam. And it’s good to get back to the atmosphere of these places, where we can waste hours reading a book surfing on the Internet with one eye and watching the to-ing and fro-ing of people with the other eye. We undoubtedly missed that. The pleasure of spending time doing nothing. Of thinking and spending money. Without counting and without costing us too much. A maximum of hours for a minimum of energy. And when the time has come to plan the next steps of our trip, cafés are great places that offer all that we travellers need: a nice and calm atmosphere, a good wi-fi connexion and refreshing drinks to keep us going.
What we like in cafés is that they reflect the personality of their owner. They have a soul and they are alive. People created them and since then life has been developing like an ecosystem in favourable conditions. And this life actually continues to shape them. Unavoidably, they are bound to get out of control. But they become impregnated in various ways, get nuances and varied shades, wear out; they soften like a ballet shoe on a dancer’s foot. They move, evolve. And they become more and more charming, like a face that gets on in years.
Here are four cafés in Hanoi where we lost our time… to better gain some afterwards.
Cộng cà phê
There are several addresses but this one faces the majestic Saint Joseph Cathedral – this is our favourite one. The Cộng cà phê (Cong Café) wears a kaki frontage and inside, the decoration, which claims a propaganda style reminiscent of old communism, looks funky with its multicoloured flowery chairs. This is the perfect place to read, work, chat… although too much filled with smoke at times. It has a light menu – and in particular for eating – but proposes a few curiosities that were already on our “must-try” list. So, don’t miss: the suaa chua (coffee with yoghourt and black rice) and the cot dua (coconut and coffee smoothie), the delicious sấu juice (dracontomelon), very local as this small round fruit mainly grows around Hanoi, or even the surprising cassava juice.
27 Nhà Thờ • Hàng Trống
Perched on the first floor of a building, this address of The Kafé chain grab the eye with its bay window that overlooks the boulevard. We can feel that the afternoon will be pleasant and relaxing… The interior is bright, modern and welcoming. We choose the best table, the one next to the bay window – although it is a bit hot but never mind. A special place that reminds us so much of the typical cafés in Northern Europe that we love. With a bit of luck, this thought will bring us a bit of coolness. Well…
The atmosphere of The Kafé is local chic. The menu found inspiration from all over the world, taking so it seems a bit of the best in each culture while fortunately keeping some local flavours as mango, banana, hibiscus, pandan, lime, and the association of coffee and yoghurt. As we turn the pages over, we feel like trying everything. So, we didn’t have any choice but listening our desires, well at least some. Lime juice (a delight of simplicity), mango-tapioca smoothie, Mexican salad with watermelon and fresh cheese, mini almond-banana pavlova, coco and pandan cream, egg tart.
18 Điện Biên Phủ • Ba Đình
Bar Betta – café, bar & lounge
Located near the Museum of Fine-Arts and the temple of Literature, the Bar Betta hides behind a door with a red neon light above. Actually, it found a comfortable location in a huge French house and once we walk in, a long flight of stairs takes us up to the first floor. The Bar Betta Café occupies several opened up rooms, filled with sofas and armchairs of various styles, lamps and kitsch objects. On the walls, jazzmen share the space with beautiful actresses, old vinyl records or big mirrors. A mix of styles that could almost makes us forget the cold smoke smell that filled the rooms (smoking in public areas is not yet forbidden here). So we let ourselves slowly – very slowly – slide down into the upholstered armchairs, enjoying daylight next to one of these high windows with an espagnolette-lock, adorned with velvet curtains, on a background of some excellent tunes and songs (although depending on days and waiters). The menu has nothing original, but excellent “mocktails” are served with great attention and kindness.
34C Cao Bá Quát • Ba Đình
Manzi – Art space, café, bar
No far from the White Bambou lake (hồ Trúc Bạch), in the north of the Old Quarter, the Manzi Café has taken up residence in a well-restored French house. Light hues, pieces of art on the walls, dark wooden furniture and high ceilings: this is an artistic space that accepts coworking sessions on the ground floor and house an art gallery on the 1st floor, where it is possible to buy paintings and sculptures made by Vietnamese artists. The place is calm and enjoyable. There are some very good juices and other beverages, but only a reduced choice of dishes that can barely fill hungry stomachs. We loved to spend a few hours in this place offering a fresh and nice welcome.
14 Phan Huy Ích • Ba Đình
What type of cafés do you like most?