Led by a waiter, we crept up to the second floor through narrow and winding stairs; stairs that revealed a small terrace bordered by greenery, doors and other mysterious pathways. Despite the temptation to sit on the sunlit balcony, we opted to settle down inside, having originally come here to seek shelter from the heat.

 

A Little Bit of Everything

 

The architecture was that of an old French colonial villa. The second floor felt small, with tiny rooms and a low ceiling lined with wooden frames. To some, this might feel claustrophobic, but to me it was simply cozy. The corner where we were sat had a window next to it which let the sunlight filter in. Directly next to us was a potted plant, affectionately equipped with its own light source.

 

After we ordered our drinks, I decided to look around and realised that the little plant pot was not the only weird decoration in the café. One of the walls had torn out dictionary pages for wallpaper, and each wall was adorned with at least one artwork. The latter ranged from football-themed oil paintings and old propaganda posters to watercolour drawings and textiles (yes, a carpet framed on a wall).

 

 

Down the first floor, things got more bizarre. Chairs seemed to be collected at random. On the shelves were books in French and Polish. There were also old vinyl records: the Spinners; Passport by Nana Mouskouri: names that don’t ring much of a bell to someone of my generation, but still familiar enough to ignite a fleeting feeling of nostalgia.

 

Finally, on an old fireplace that was stripped of its original purpose, I found the masterpiece, the piece of décor that summed up the whole café: a big, rainbow-coloured, translucent box. Instant noodles, photos, a teddy bear, an old pair of sunglasses, a box of cigarettes — everything was condensed into that seven-coloured space. It was as if whoever was the author wanted to freeze all of their memories in time.

 

Then I realised what made this dainty café as endearing as it is. Walking into Tang Tret Cosmo Café is a bit like meeting a person. The place is like somebody’s box of memories. Full of surprises, yet still warm and familiar, this small hole in the wall has created a unique atmosphere that other places fail to capture. A bit like your own home, Tang Tret exudes an effortless and comforting feel.

 

A One-of-a-Kind Escape

 

 

The pricy and sugary drinks will not be the reason why I would come back here. Rather it’s the ambience, the homely feeling offered up by this place.
To anyone looking for a quiet haven in the midst of noisy and dusty Hanoi, this is where you should nestle yourself. But make sure you come on a quiet afternoon or morning, or at odd hours, so that you can have the café and all that charm to yourself. — To Thu Phuong

 

Tang Tret Cosmo Café is at 10 Khuc Hao, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 6686 0517

To Thu Phuong

One of the writers of the column Student Eye, Phuong is Vietnamese born and bred. A little (in fact a lot) smaller than her classmates, her voice makes up for her size. If you’re lucky, you’ll find her sitting on a plastic stool on one of the busy sidewalks of Hanoi, feasting on local street food.

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