In a country as famed for its coffee as Vietnam, how do you choose where to go?
We’ve done that for you — take a look at Hanoi’s five best coffee spots.
1. Ca Phe Pho Co
Ca Phe Pho Co starts out as a souvenir shop, turns into someone’s aging home and then, after you’ve wound your way up several narrow staircases, becomes a simple café looking out over a stream of scooter traffic and across Hoan Kiem Lake.
The coffee’s decent and the café sections are minimal — plastic chairs and aluminum tables. But the real reason to come here is for that short journey from street to coffee table, which takes you on a blitz tour through three different worlds.
Take time to look around as you pass through the shoulder-width passageway into the residence, mind the pet cat as you mount the first step, admire the family shrine on the second level.
You feel like a trespasser, but that’s the fun.
Ca Phe Pho Co, 11 Hang Gai, Hanoi; +84 (0)4 3928 8153
2. Nha Hang Bao Oanh
Modern and hugely popular with a young crowd, Nha Hang Bao Oanh is one of the bigger coffee spots near West Lake with three floors and an expansive rooftop.
Views across the lake are great and make for a perfect spot for watching the firework displays at New Year or Independence Day (September 2).
It’s no escape –- traffic noises in Hanoi can still reach you four stories up -– and the menu appears to be a mere prop for the waiters to say “Sorry no have, you should try egg coffee.”
But the egg coffee is worth trying at least once in Hanoi, so why not?
Nha Hang Bao Oanh, 7 Duong Thanh Nien, Hanoi; +84 (0)4 3823 9688
3. Align 3D Graphic Café
One of the hippest coffee shops in Hanoi, this multi-story, cool and sometimes dingy café is a second home to Hanoi’s laptop-wielding students. They come for the strong cocktails (it’s called a café, but has more booze options than caffeine), polished surfaces and strange melding of nature with modern design.
Located on a quiet residential street, you are introduced to the café via a claustrophobic bamboo pathway, a goldfish pond and a cherry tree before it transforms into a collection of laid-back teenage dens stacked on top of each other. Like any self-respecting venue in Hanoi, two decent roof terraces are also included.
Align 3D Graphic Café, 10A Khuc Hao St., Ba Dinh, Hanoi; +84 (0)166 375 6666; http://align.vn/
4. Cookie Jar
Like something you might find in Tokyo catering to the adult-baby-fetish businessman, Cookie Jar feeds coffee quaffers a big gloopy spoonful of teddy bear-decorated mush.
But it stops short of a cloying kindergarten feel, mixing a natural design indoors — wicker floor mats, stumpy wooden tables –- with outdoor decking furniture.
Cookie Jar serves a mix of traditional Vietnamese coffees, spring rolls and fried potato dishes and Western smoothies, crepes and ice cream. Every Wednesday there’s a live music show.
If nothing else, it’s worth popping in just for a chat with the vivacious and chatty owner, Trang, who has obviously put a lot of herself into this decor.
Cookie Jar, 79D Ly Nam De, Hanoi; +84 (0)4 3747 5624; www.facebook.com/pages/Cookie-Jar-Cafe
If you’re looking for classy, polished decor and a sophisticated air, probably best to avoid this one. Chillout lives its name, through the service, the design and the ambience. It’s a laid-back, slap-dash affair, where live music and conversation pull rank over interior design.
You can imagine the owner walking around a day before opening saying, “Yeah, just stick a sofa there … a piano might look good there …”
Safe to say Chillout goes for substance over style and that’s no bad thing. Guitars and other instruments also sit around in corners waiting to be played by daring customers.
Weekly live music shows.
Chillout, 89A Ly Nam De, Hanoi; +84 (0)4 6295 2595
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