After a few months oscillating between the same three places for my afternoon ca phe sua da, I (and my rambunctious cocker spaniel, Rosie) went out in search of something new.
That day we discovered a new hangout, vastly different from the hoards of stale-looking rivals offering the usual ca phe and banh mi options.
Having only opened its doors three months ago, October Café provides Hanoians with a quiet and quirky alternative to chill out and sip their egg-coffee, or, if you’ve finished being productive for the day, ca phe ruon rum (rum coffee).
I should disclose from the outset that this place is not your typical café. They don’t even have a barista machine. Or a barista. But what they lack in western coffee options, they make up for with eccentric Vietnamese brews and funky spaces.
As you walk through the entry, you immediately feel like you’ve stepped into some kind of quirky Brick Lane antique store. The walls are adorned with antique frosted-glass lamps, banjos and vinyl records. The menus are handwritten into recycled Parisian notebooks and the makeshift shelves are lined with a hodgepodge of second-hand novels (written in Tieng Viet), acetate vases and vintage rotary dial phones. The eastern wall has also been cleverly transformed into a blackboard with chalk murals.
The café’s staff, although not great English speakers, are very friendly and extremely attentive. For example, when I complained about the ear-shattering volume at which Enrique Iglesias’ Why Oh Why was being played, it was promptly turned down. See? Attentive.
Be warned that this is not a place to come and eat big, hearty meals. Food options are limited to garlic bread (VND50,000), ambiguous sounding ham bread (VND80,000) and potato chips (VND40,000). However, homemade yoghurts are available in a good selection of flavours, including matcha, raspberry, mango and chocolate (VND40,000).
October also offers the chance to try a signature coconut or kakao-infused coffee for VND30,000. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can throw back some VND50,000 mojitos or tequila sunrises. If not, the café also offers a range of freshly-made smoothies, flavoured with custard-apple, mango or coconut ice-cream available for VND40,000.
The lasting impression is that October has recreated the same cool retro vibe that the Cong Ca Phe's do so well, but without the crowds or the price tag. This eccentric café-slash-bar oozes with personality, but still manages to feel modest and humble. — David Mann
October Café is at 20 Ven Ho, Tay Ho, Hanoi