The Church is the sort of place that demands to be seen. No trendy little hole-in-the-wall café is this — it oozes luxury with its shining, full-length glass windows and its dark polished wood furniture, a bubble of refinement in the hubbub of Nha Tho Street. As soon as I saw it, I felt underdressed, but the staff welcomed me with wide, warm smiles.


The space inside was comfortable and quiet. High ceilings and spare walls were illuminated by hanging clusters of big light bulbs with those popular long filaments that make cool patterns and give off a dim, warm glow. Everyone was well dressed, and the other customers and the staff spoke in hushed voices, almost like in a real church. The whole place shone with newness and with the sort of simple elegance that is rarely achieved here, where ostentatiousness is often mistaken for class. I settled on a couch in a cozy corner and ordered a ginger, lemon and lemongrass tea (VND80,000) from the extensive menu, which includes mocktails and smoothies (VND89,000) as well as food and alcoholic drinks.

 

Steeped

 

 

The tea was bright and crisp, steeped with house-made syrup and fresh ingredients, and they brought the honey on the side. Instead of a spoon to stir the honey, it came with a stalk of fresh lemongrass, which I thought was a lovely touch, and as soon as I had finished the clear pot of tea a waiter appeared to refill it with hot water. They get the details right at The Church.

 

Yet amid all this elegance there are brief moments of unpretentious personality, some good, others less so: a bartender juggling limes in his silk waistcoat; a waiter leaning his head against the speaker but listening to a hip-hop tune on his phone, louder than the tinkling background piano music; several mosquitos floating around nearby that somehow didn’t bite me (perhaps they were after richer blood); the restroom, which is reached via a corridor packed with unused chairs and bowls still wrapped in plastic.

 

 

These moments served to throw into sharper relief the high level of professionalism at The Church. The service is top-notch, with friendly staff who are attentive without crowding or becoming irritating, and the atmosphere is relaxing, especially considering the location (near the cathedral in one of the busiest parts of Hanoi), all very impressive for a place that only opened in December. Although there were only a handful of customers when I arrived, it was starting to fill up only an hour later, so it is already becoming popular.

 

The Church has the feel of a much more mature establishment. With such a good start I suspect it will be around for quite some time; if you ever feel like being fancy without being pretentious, you know where to go. — Kate Robinson

 

The Church is located at 1 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

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