Our mystery diner starts out sceptical of this rebranded French restaurant, only to leave wondering if French cuisine in Hanoi can get any better.

Bar-Rique Brasserie is one of the restaurants under the control of Didier Corlou, the French chef-owner behind establishments including Porte D’Annam and Madame Hien.

 

Well known for his preference for mixing French ingredients with Vietnamese flavours, Corlou has ensured Bar-Rique has an exciting menu boasting many French favourites, with unique local twists.

 

Same Same But Different

 

I last visited Bar-Rique around six months ago, while it was still DC Bistro. The food was decent, but the restaurant felt tired and unloved. Wine racks were half empty, paint was peeling and half of the tables weren’t set at the beginning of dinner service.

 

On our return visit today, there are some noticeable differences. The exterior has benefitted from the facelift, with some shiny new signage across the front of the restaurant.

 

However, the interior is much the same; the same furniture, the same dark red napkins and same tired décor is still present. The menus are new, but somehow don’t feel it; especially when some pages fall out as the waiter hands us the wine list.

 

After a bit of prodding, we learn from the waiter that the executive chef is the same Vietnamese maestro from the old restaurant, but the kitchen team under him has undergone a shake-up.

 

A Journey

 

The new menu manages to be concise without shunning variety, and some of the most quintessential French dishes have survived the rebrand.

 

Wagyu beef carpaccio (VND145,000), pan fried foie gras (VND185,000) and ribeye tartar (VND300,000 for 200g) are French staples impossible to omit, but the two new set menus look too good to ignore.

 

The Journey in France set menu is amazing value at only VND352,000, and includes three courses with a choice between two starters and two mains.

 

I start my journey in Paris, where the modern version of gratinéed onion soup finds its origins. The stock is well-seasoned, with strong notes of black pepper and fortified wine. The onions, caramelised to within an inch of their lives, are sweet and generous in quantity, while the cheesy crouton provides a chewy and crusty upper layer.

 

The chosen main, seabass papillote with basilic, carries all the necessary flavour to back up the theatrical presentation. Thick flakes of tender seabass fall away with little effort, an ideal pairing to the crunchy Vietnamese-style greens and savoury sauce.

 

A brave excursion to my partner’s plate, caramelised prawns in vanilla with risotto (VND248,000), allows me to experience the most flavoursome prawns I’ve had for some time.

 

Returning to my own dish, I struggle to think of anywhere else in Hanoi it’s possible to get such fine French cuisine for such modest prices.

 

Our waiter, efficient and pleasant throughout the evening, sets the final dish down in front of our eyes, which is far bigger than the belly it deceives. The apple tarte tatin consists of tender, warm apple slices on a base of flaky pastry, topped with a modest dollop of ice cream and drizzled with toffee sauce. The dessert is representative of the whole evening; divine.

 

Bar-Rique Brasserie is located at 15A Ngo Van So, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi and is open from 11am to 2.30pm and from 5.30pm to 11pm. For info click on facebook.com/barriquebrasserie 


The Verdict

 

Food - 14

Service - 12

Decor - 8.5


The Ratings

 

Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.

 

13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection

10 — 12.5 very good to excellent

8 — 9.5 good to very good

5 — 7.5 fair to good

0 — 4.5 poor to fair

 

Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals

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