The Hanoi Social Club
6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem
Mint slushies. They’re just the start of it. When Hanoi Social Club landed in town last summer, it changed the daily routines for the city’s coffee-shop-hoppers and those not bound to office blocks. This hideout, which sits pleasantly on the edge of the Old Quarter, serves all purposes with an atmosphere that caters for social lunches, laptop stints and the type of vibe needed to get deep into a good book. There’s an earthy aura about the whole place, too, from the logo design and paper menus, to the plants in test tubes and thoughtful wood-theme design from Nguyen Qui Duc. The board games, comfy seating, lack of smoke, terrace, friendly staff and hearty food — not to mention the top quality coffee and slushy range — have turned this place into an institution in only a few months. Live events are said to be on the cards for 2012.
34C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
In a city filled with unused terraces, this new addition’s greatest asset rests on its roof. While nostalgic flair slightly cramps the establishment’s interior, a steady growth in popularity and high quality croque madames have kept this place on our radar. Less untimely Christmas music and slightly better service may just transform this place from an occasional hang out to Hanoian staple in 2012.
60 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem
While Hanoi’s secret café era seems to have faded into oblivion, Canopee’s inhabitance of Puku’s former stomping grounds is a welcomed revival of the old. Remolded and refurnished with hardy wooden furniture on the second floor and comfortable couches on the third makes this lounge perfect for quiet drinks or low key meet ups with conversationalists.
28 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem
This welcome restobar (pictured) has one eye on food lovers and another on those looking for something outside of the Old Quarter dives or ostentatious playgrounds of the nouveau riche. Southgate’s chic minimal décor and ambiance is what makes it unique, and the staff are the type to remember your name after only a couple of visits. Weekend DJs, brunch and regular parties have put this place on the map, while facilitating late night conversations mandated by Food Street’s after-hours ethos. You won’t be paying Ta Hien prices, but proper cocktails, a diverse menu and good music, together with a thoughtfully refurbished colonial villa, means Southgate is a newcomer worth getting to know in the New Year.
Fat Cat Bar
25 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
Link Hanoi’s newest venture arrived on Ta Hien in the shape of Fat Cat Bar, which has to be up there with the best new arrivals in the Old Quarter. Fronted by charismatic pair Olivier and Fabio and equally friendly staff, and set over a ground floor and mezzanine, the good music and equal mix of residents and visitors means that this one next to Bia Hoi Junction has become a regular stop off for those doing the whole Old Quarter thing when the sun sinks.
47 Lo Su, Hoan Kiem
We’re yet to hear a bad word about the newest Indian restaurant in town. And we can taste why — the food from north and south India here is delightful, eaten in or delivered to your door, with every curry cooked using a different base of ingredients imported from India. The owner, Gopi, who has been introducing the traditional clay tandoor oven to Hanoi’s Indian restaurant circuit since we can remember, has a talent of working out what you will like with just a few minutes of conversation. And his recommendations never disappoint. While some say the minimal decor equates to a flat atmosphere, that’s only the case if your glass is half empty. We say it’s fresh, clean and minimal, with the imported cutlery and decoration leaving sufficient room for the food from the four Indian chefs in the kitchen to do all the talking.
23J Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem
Set over three chic floors for all occasions — lounge bar, restaurant and boardroom — the newest venture from the Alfresco’s Group is definitely up there with its meatiest. Serving imported beef from the USA, New Zealand and Australia in a range of cuts perfectly presented on the plate, Jacksons is for when the strips of cow in bun bon nam bo and lacklustre service just will not do. It's also worth a visit for the pizzas, pastas, salads and vast, well thought out wine list.
2011 was the year for welcomed additions to cyberspace in the form of vietnammm.com and eatvn.com — two websites that, if you’re at home feeling idle, are the best thing since 56K dial up modems. Click on your city and district, pick a restaurant, choose your food, enter your details and wait for the doorbell. It’s that simple. No credit cards or linguistic hurdles, all you need is hunger pains, an internet connection and some cash. From fish and chips, to pizza, to tapas, Indian food and ice cream, it’s all there, and the list of restaurants using one or both of the innovative websites is getting longer by the month.