Address: 40 Cao Ba Quat Street, Ba Dinh district, Hanoi
Directions: Located inside the grounds of the Vietnam National Fine Art Museum (corner of Cao Ba Quat and Nguyen Thai Hoc)
Phone: (+84) 37343098
Description: The new location of an old favorite, Matchbox now has a bit more of a wine bar feel. Much of the menu is the same, as well as the staff.
Restaurant Type: Sit-down restaurant
Typical Price Per Person: 60,000 – 150,000
Speciality: Aussie Scotch Fillet Steak, Lamb Shank, Pasta, Beef Carpaccio, Tiramitsu
Take Out: No
“I was taking a friend out for diner to celebrate his birthday and had heard good things about this place, so thought I’d give it a whirl.
The ‘experience’ started with a phone call to the restaurant to book a table. the girl on the end of the phone said ‘No, moved.’ and then slammed the phone down on me. I rang back and she did the same. Hmm, did not bode well. I asked my friend to call as he speaks good Vietnamese. he managed to book a table, but said it was a struggle. Undeterred, we went ahead with our plans…
On arrival at the restaurant, in its beautiful setting, we were greeted by a very friendly guy outside. The waitress then asked if we had booked a table, implying that if we hadn’t, we were out of luck (the restaurant was empty). She then proceeded to sit us at a table with a filthy table cloth, not even bothering to point out that the upstairs area was far nicer (and had people in it).
We asked if we could see the upstairs when we realised it existed, and moved. This was a far superior room to the downstairs and the table had a clean tablecloth – bonus!
My chair was very wobbly and I asked for one that was not broken. After trying almost all the chairs in the restaurant, the waiter finally found one that was slightly stable. I figured red wine + wonky chair was not a good move, so wanted one that was not going to collapse under me, but would allow me to collapse under it if I so desired.
We ordered gin and tonics – that basic and simple pre-dinner drink. The waiter took the order and then came back to tell us they did not have tonic. So we went straight into the wine, which they had, and at a reasonable price (shame the price tag was actually on the bottle as this is really inappropriate when treating someone to dinner!). The waiter then proceeded to attempt to pour the wine, but was so cautious about doing so, he was dripping it all over the table, bases of the glasses and floor. We procured the bottle of wine from him to prevent any more from being spilt.
I decided to have the lamb shanks – guess what? They didn’t have them. At least I was told this while discussing what to eat, not after ordering.
We placed our order, my friend ordering the meatball starter. The waiter duly went off and came back. Are you ready for it…yep, no meatballs.
Finally we managed to place our order and receive our food. I had the pho carpaccio (excellent) and beef fillet (cooked to perfection). My friend ordered smoked salmon (also great) and roasted salmon (ditto). Yep, two beef dishes for me and 2 salmon for him – it takes all sorts…
The food was not only good, but came quickly and the main courses were hot, unlike other places where your food feels like it has been sitting around for while and cooling down.
We finished by sharing a chocolate & raspberry mousse which was also delicious – in fact the plate was licked clean (not by me).
So, it was a comedy of errors type of a night. The food was excellent, but to be honest, any restaurant which can’t put a clean tablecloth on the table should make alarm bells ring. The service was patchy, but always delivered with a beaming smile, so it wasn’t for the lack of trying. The fact the waiters have FBI / Conran style earpices and walkie talkies seemed a little bit over the top for an empty restaurant, but caused some amusement.
The setting and the actual space is excellent. The building is very unusual and would be an excellent spot for a party. I particularly liked the tree growing through the middle of the restaurant.
It’s a hard one to give a rating to because the night was so strange. The food would have got 5 stars, but everything else was a bit odd, so 4 instead.”