Plaster blasted off the walls reveals crumbling brick, crumpled sheets of burnt orange aluminium encase dangled light bulbs, old style crockery is pinned to the walls, tea pots tipped downward, bleeding into an exposed original candy-pastel mural of lines, shapes and flower patterns. A stone unicorn used in an Elle Vietnam fashion shoot by owner-architect Tran Hoang Trung’s creative director brother, Dzung Yoko, lies harmoniously against the upstairs wall, sharing the perimeter with potted ferns.
Trung is the architect-designer of both ID Cafés, Zest Bistro, the new Hum Vegetarian Restaurant and The Fig Café — all places employing styles that run the Saigon gamut. “A few years ago,” Trung says, “I tried to do Asian Contemporary, like The Fig Café. But now I’m not really into the Asian Contemporary style. For an architect, I think the most important thing when you have a project and you want to decide, is you see the atmosphere, everything, the neighbours — you have the idea. I don’t stick to any style.”
Hum on Thi Sach has exposed ventilation crawling along its ceiling, counterbalanced with a smooth concrete floor and a mood-lit brick wall. ID Café on Tu Xuong is built around a fulcrum of garden space, trees growing alongside the rising storeys.
“You see the wall?” says Trung, pointing towards the half-exposed mural. “The painting belongs to the houses from before 1975. I discovered that... but I don’t want to make it into the old wall. I just want to hide the past in the present.”
M2C’s menu is a dense affair of local foods described in Japanese, English and Vietnamese, coffee, tea, juices and a liberal sprinkling of high-concept drinks. The coffee comes from an organic farm in Buon Ma Thuot, the Central Highlands’ capital of coffee. And it’s actually quite good, freshly ground in an aesthetically matched craft grinder.
M2C just opened a second branch on Le Quy Don last month, its aesthetic matching the L’Usine black-and-white tile and whitewashed brick a bit more closely. And it has more than just appearances in common. They’re two of a select few cafés in the city which manage to integrate the past into the present, and in doing so form the missing link between Vietnam’s classical café culture and the world class brand that it still enjoys. — Ed Weinberg. Photos by Francis Xavier
The reviewed branch of M2C is at 44B Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City while the second branch is at 4B Le Quy Don, Q3, Ho Chi Minh City