“At first, people were scared, and stuck to basic waffles. But now, they are getting more creative,” says co-owner Nguyen Hai Duy. He points out his favourite combination, a raisin waffle with coconut gelato, bananas and chocolate sauce, one of several set combos on the menu for the more indecisive. The concept, which began in June 2013, was originally focused on takeaway, but it soon became obvious to Duy and partner Dinh Tuong Linh that they wanted to give customers a sit-down experience where they could really experiment with their waffle creations. Now, three stores later, the brand has found its footing.
The Personal Touch
Their newest location sits above the Circle K on Dinh Tien Hoang, overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. Walking in off the chaotic street, through the bright convenience store lights, and upstairs into their aesthetically serene space is an experience in itself. With heavy slate tables, a neutral colour scheme, and the kind of wood grain that can only be described as ‘sexy’, it comes as no surprise that Linh studied architecture in London.
At first glance, the design feels professionally branded. But look closer, and you’ll see the personal touches, like porcelain napkin holders handmade by Duy’s father, and custom wooden cutlery designed specifically with the challenge of scooping both waffles and gelato in mind. Even the photos on the menu, which I could have sworn were professionally done, are in fact homegrown; a team effort taken entirely by iPhones, inspired by the staff’s personal Instagram accounts.
Their culinary dedication equals that of their design; all the waffles are made fresh every morning, and again around 2pm. They make their own batter, sauce, and whipped cream. “We even tried making our own Nutella once!” Duy laughs. It’s important to him that their ingredients are not only fresh, but locally sourced, too. “We want to keep it as Vietnamese as possible,” he says.
Time for some Waffle
So, in the spirit of Vietnam, I opted for a matcha waffle with coconut gelato, fresh mango, and chocolate sauce (VND75,000). Where many matcha desserts disappoint by being either too sweet or too bitter, this one is well-balanced (and you can easily eat more than one). The gelato is made from young coconuts, which provide a sweeter pulp. It holds together better than ice cream, and this means you can take your time savouring the way it complements the crispy, warm confection beneath, without worrying that it will become a melted mess.
And while we’re on the subject of non-traditional waffle varieties, stuffing one with cream cheese and chives and topping it with smoked salmon (VND80,000) is a delicious savoury twist on the traditionally sweet dish. In order to make this work, Duy tells me they created a special batter with onion and basil that would complement the salty, tangy toppings. If you’re still hungry, have a pizza waffle, too (VND80,000).
Other notable menu options include a decadent take on the classic English dessert, Banoffee (VND70,000): buttery, dense shortcake nestled between caramelised bananas, coffee, and homemade whipped cream, topped with granola, and the mountain cake (VND35,000), reminiscent of a giant, vanilla eclair, paired with strawberry sauce.
Stuffed to the brim with all that deliciousness, I decided that the salmon waffle is something that I need regularly in my life, possibly once a week, or more. Thankfully, Duy informed me that they have a loyalty programme for new addicts such as myself, and student discounts to reward the hard-working scholars of Hanoi. Now all we need is a location in Tay Ho, and I’ll never have to endure the horrors of waffle withdrawal. — Jesse Meadows
wannawaffle? has three locations in Hanoi: 27 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem; 138 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung; and Unit 108, Indochina Plaza, 241 Xuan Thuy, Cau Giay. You can also find them online at facebook.com/wannawaffle