01: Maison de Blanc
Just behind the hustle and bustle of the popular expat stretch of Xuan Dieu Street lies the hidden entrance to Maison de Blanc. This Korean-owned bakery-cum-cafe is set in a whitewashed three-storey villa with a shaded courtyard. The bright and cosy outfit specialises in freshly baked pastries with an Asian twist, perfect for afternoon tea. Here, a dazzling array of sweet creations line the counter. On a cold, drizzly day, a slice of the lemon breton tart or vanilla chiffon with a warm cup of tea will bring a smile to anyone’s face. For those after Japanese-inspired sweet treats, a slice of black sesame chiffon or green tea sake tiramisu should do the trick. The selection of sandwiches is perfect for brunch too. The bulgogi potato ciabatta sandwich served with Korean-style sauces is a particular treat.
5 Tay Ho St, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 4 3710 0921
02: Bancong Deli
If tucking into home-cured bacon and locally roasted coffee on a lazy Sunday morning is your thing, then look no further than Bancong Deli, a snug little spot for leisurely weekend brunches. With a chic shopfront, this bistro is the owner’s edible homage to New Zealand’s casual deli food. From the traditional fry-up and sausage rolls to the chicken cordon bleu and curried chickpea salad, Bancong Deli ticks all popular breakfast and brunch boxes. The owner, Guy de Lautour, a New Zealand-born engineer, likes to keep it real. This is evident in the down-to-earth food served, or what he refers to as “just the types of food our mothers cook at home”. “Our food is affordable Western comfort food because there are many young expatriate teachers living on a shoestring budget,” says de Lautour. The best part, however, is that all the bistro’s bacon and ham is cured and smoked on site, on its rooftop.
18 Quang Khanh St, Quang An, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 (0)96 985 0034. www.bancong.vn
03: May Taste
Judge it by its unfussy facade and you could easily mistake May Taste for just another ordinary cafe. However, what it lacks in decor, it more than makes up for in food. May Taste is the brainchild of Nguyen Huong, a 30-something woman who was born into a family of restaurateurs in Uoc Le Village, an area known for making Vietnamese ham. The unpretentious and homey food at May Taste is mostly inspired by her traditional family recipes, handed down through generations. The sauces are all homemade and the vegetables are sourced directly from a nearby organic farm.
Besides Vietnamese fare, the menu also includes Western-style and vegetarian dishes. One signature item worth trying is the traditional Hanoian speciality cha ca, which is given a modern spin with grilled Norwegian salmon, and comes with a lovely tangy dipping sauce presented in a wine glass. The dish packs dill, roasted turmeric, galangal root and a dash of fish sauce into every sensational bite. Another star dish is the roasted chicken smothered in a savoury homemade sauce made from red wine and coconut cream. May Taste is a good place to stop by for a taste of quality restaurant-style Vietnamese food at affordable prices.
18C Dang Thai Mai St, Quang An, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 4 3718 8273
04: Maison de Tet Decor
Set in a charming yellow-hued villa facing the West Lake, Maison de Tet Decor is a wonderfully relaxed neighbourhood joint and a favourite pit-stop for cyclists. At the helm is Pete Wilkes, an Australian social entrepreneur who works closely with underprivileged young people and tribal people. The cafe is tastefully decorated with reclaimed furniture, ethnic artefacts, zen-like sculptures, bundles of incense, and hand-woven local tribal fabric draping the dark charcoal walls. The place is reminiscent of an artist friend’s warm and inviting home. The pleasant woody incense, calm lounge music and idyllic lakeside views are complementary with the laid-back vibe.
Maison de Tet Decor takes three things seriously: craft coffee, organic drinks and healthy food options. Think gluten-free cakes, organic brown rice, veggie burger and fresh juices. Available too is black organic tea produced by Dzao tea farmers in the northern mountains of Ha Giang and homemade jars of raw honey produced by a family in Ha Giang. The vegetables are grown and handpicked from the owner’s organic farm outside of Hanoi. The coffee comes from a top-notch local roaster, and there are eight micro batch craft blends named after elements of nature. After a day spent cycling around the West Lake, this is a haven for those who want to rest their sore muscles.
Villa 156 Tu Hoa St, Nghi Tam, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 (0)96 661 1383. www.tet-lifestyle-collection.com
05: Kok Coffee Roasting House
Just a few doors down from Maison de Tet Decor is Kok Coffee Roasting House, the city’s only roastery dedicated to offering gourmet, artisanal, pure roasted coffee. It comprises a small brew lab operating out of a private villa.
Founded in 2012 by a Taiwanese husband-and-wife team, Andrew Shih and Ashley Yang, Kok is aimed at giving coffee enthusiasts a better alternative to the generic and artificially flavoured stuff typically served at local cafes. “It’s our aim to bring to Vietnam this pure roasted coffee which is very common in Taiwan and worldwide,” says Yang. The economic crisis in 2007 forced them to quit their jobs and step into the world of artisanal coffee.
Kok’s roasting facilities have since grown from a 500g sample roasting machine to a 20kg roasting machine that can produce 20 tonnes per month. It sources the best beans directly from fair trade growers in the northern provinces of Son La and Dien Bien Phu, as well as from around the world, and specialises in roasting single origin and mixed blend coffees. It offers more than 20 types of coffee, all freshly roasted and made to order with a lifespan of fewer than three days.
150 Tu Hoa St, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 (0)91 436 86
06: Ke Quan
Like its name suggests, Ke Quan or “restaurant on a dock” is an effortlessly cool, boho, dockside venue, which doubles as an art gallery. Exhibitions change every month, from themes such as photography and painting to tattoo art. Headed by three partners (Bui Thi Dong Thanh, Ha Huu Tam and Cesar Aubry) with culinary and design experiences, Ke Quan serves modern Vietnamese fare. A highlight is the set lunch, inspired by the Vietnamese principle of balance in which every meal must have an element of fire, water, earth, metal and wood. It incorporates beef with ginger and pepper, vegetarian spring rolls, steamed vegetables and a seasonal soup of mustard greens, all presented on a bamboo tray.
Another dish worth trying is the bun cha. By using more vegetables and pork cuts with less fat (like pork shoulder loin), the eatery takes a lighter and healthier approach to its bun cha, which is a refreshing change from the traditional version. Look out too for fried tofu with black sesame, and broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and carrots served with a spicy Southern styled dipping sauce called kho quet. In an area brimming with street food stalls and Western restaurants, Ke Quan carves out a niche with its affordable Vietnamese fare presented in a unique setting.
81B Xuan Dieu St, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 (0)91 357 8588
07: Don’s Bistro
Don’s Bistro is the first fine-dining restaurant, and one of the best in Tay Ho. A growing number of dining spots across the neighbourhood and beyond hasn’t outshined this stalwart. In business for seven years, it is somewhat of a West Lake dining institution. Don’s was established at a time when the area around West Lake was dotted with corrugated iron shacks, fish farms and a handful of noodle stands.
Spread over four floors, overlooking the lake, Don’s features a wine cellar, a cigar den and a rooftop oyster bar with live music every night. The decor – Ming dynasty-inspired wooden chairs with luxurious satin pillows, turquoise drapes and lotus-themed paintings by a local artist – is carefully designed to match the lakeside location.
Montreal-born chef and restaurateur Donald Berger brought decades of international cooking experience to this restaurant, which has won various awards and accolades. His extensive menu is testament to his globe-trotting experience: Each dish takes inspiration from a previous country of residence. His 17 years of living in Hanoi has translated into delightful creations such as Canadian spring rolls and duck pho. The Canadian spring rolls – a beautifully presented dish of crab and avocado with a topping of Masago caviar – are a sight to behold and a delight for the tastebuds. The duck pho, meanwhile, is a pleasant surprise. Inspired by the French dish, canarde al’orange duck, the duck pho is perfectly cooked, well-seasoned and meltingly tender. It is packed with herbal flavours and a rich taste.
To round off your meal, nothing can beat the creme brulee baked in passionfruit shells and the tiramisu with a shot of Illy coffee and a dash of Marou Chocolate powder (Marou is the first artisan chocolate maker from Vietnam).
16 Lane 27 Xuan Dieu St, Tay Ho District. Tel: +84 4 3719 2828. www.dons-bistro.com
(Photography: Liem Tran)