This was exactly how I felt one evening when a friend dragged me out of Barbetta on Ly Quoc Su and down a hidden alley off St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The honking and bright lights of the Old Quarter soon vanished and I began navigating the winding, narrow staircase to Hanoi House.
Pushing through a wooden door, we stumbled into a warmly lit room neatly arranged with small stools and wooden tables. Pairs of shoes lay next to quaint wooden staircases that led up to cubby-like mezzanines where small groups were huddled around steaming cups of ca phe. Underneath, couples sat in warm booths reading menus under the glow of lit candles.
It took me a second to realize that the café was actually part of a family’s house. Seeing us arrive, a family member jumped to his feet, greeted us with a friendly smile and handed us menus.
Like many traditional cafes in the city, Hanoi House isn’t the place to come for a full-blown meal. The menu offers a modest selection of Vietnamese coffees, smoothies, snacks and for those winding down from a night at Barbetta, reasonably priced bottles of Bia Ha Noi (VND23,000).
But the main to visit Hanoi House is for the experience. It’s quiet; it’s intimate and it’s simple. The staff will treat you like you’re a guest in their home. More importantly, you’ll get to see what life is like beyond the neon lights and among the back alleys of Hanoi. — David Mann
Hanoi House is hidden away at 2nd Floor, 47A Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi