It’s one of those things that gives you hope during the occasional #expatfail that one day, you’ll unlock the secret to getting things done.
Having been gone for only a month, I was shocked when I returned to my favourite bar on Nguyen Quang Bich to notice a fluorescent beam of light streaming in from across the street. In typical Hanoi fashion, And Here Café had almost literally sprouted overnight, and was buzzing with young evening patrons. Intrigued, I ventured back the next day.
From the outside, And Here Café appears to clash with its scruffier neighbours. It sits amid a sea of bun cha nem stores that spill off the footpath and overtake the street behind Hang Da Mall (now also called Hanoi Square). Outside, stall minders recline in their ever-so-stylish two-piece pyjamas, with strips of carefully-folded newspaper incubating their fresh highlights. Inside, neatly organised tables play host to chic handbags and glistening white phablets (a hybrid of smartphone and tablet), symbols of Vietnam’s growing middle class. Albeit somewhat chaotic, the area provides an endearing contrast of the old and new Hanoi.
An IKEA Bomb
Inside, the café’s trendy white, yellow and timber design, cafeteria-style seating and whitewashed walls make you think an IKEA bomb has exploded and left nothing untouched. To the side, a black spiral staircase winds its way to a second-floor mezzanine in front of a feature wall covered with bright green foliage. Funky magazine racks adorn the walls with the latest issues of Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and gay-friendly mag Attitude, in a nod to Vietnam’s liberal-minded youth.
If you consider watching people take selfies by the dozen (each with the same pouted expression and background) an intriguing spectator sport — as I most certainly do — then visiting is a must. You can also enjoy a colourful list of coffee options, iced smoothies and sodas, including the café’s own signature chocolate soda for VND38,000.
Pretty much everything comes served in a funky jam jar, which makes everything taste better and exciting-er. Apparently. The café’s Casadio barista machine pumps out pretty consistent brews, and those seeking some reprieve from the humidity might find a pleasing alternative in the café’s iced caramel macchiato (VND38,000). Unfortunately, the benign sounding mango smoothie (VND38,000) comes with a deadly dollop of whipped cream on top, which can tip the taste scales into the sickly-sweet territory. But no surprises there.
Overall, the selection isn’t huge, but it’s enough to get you by if you want a hip place to do a few hours of web surfing, or to step out of your usual roster of cafés. If you’re after somewhere quiet, then you may want to avoid it at peak times around lunch and dinner. — David Mann
And Here Café is at 22 Nguyen Quang Bich, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi