If you’re looking for a peaceful spot to sip coffee and bang out some work, Aliu Cat Café is the wrong place to choose. For starters, they don’t serve coffee. You also might find yourself distracted by the 20-odd cats roaming about, and you might find that this place is more play than it is work. Cats simply do not understand deadlines.
I paid a visit to Aliu following a classic Truc Bach lunch of pho cuon. Sensing the impending afternoon slump, I craved a coffee pick-me-up with a side of cute kitten. Upon entering Aliu, however, I learned that neither was available. Settling on a tea and rash-covered kittens, I began to ponder a new angle for my story.
Fit for a Cat
Aliu Cat Café is an odd place, but it is quirkily Hanoian with its trademark juxtaposition of old-timey charm and modern aspirations. Tucked on a quiet corner of Truc Bach Lake, Aliu’s second-floor set-up with massive windows all around makes for an impressive panorama. The interior is bright, save for that lingering cat smell, and the lime green paint job adds needed flair.
On entering, removing one’s shoes, and paying the reasonable entrance fee (VND35,000), patrons can hunker down on the café’s plush carpets, or get rambunctious with one of the many cat toys strewn about (feathers and bells on a string, anyone?). The decor is minimal and decidedly cat-friendly. On one wall, glamour shots of the café’s resident entertainers — that is, the cats — hang artfully. Along the opposite wall is a kitty obstacle course fit for a lion king. Scattered across the carpet are the cats, of all sizes, colours and levels of deformity.
I sit cross-legged with my green tea and let the cats come to me. They look like they’ve gotten in street fights galore, but the owner of the café (and the 20 cats) assures me that the skin condition they’re all suffering from is benign. I take her word for it, because while the cats seem mangled, mauled, rescued and given a cheerier life here in this bright lakeview apartment, I don’t sense emotional distress. These are happy cats. Covered in rashes, but happy.
Within minutes, I’ve tickled each of the kittens behind their tiny scab-flecked ears, rubbed the belly of a majestic fluffy fellow napping atop the lockers, and cuddled a grey tabby with neon orange eyes who looks like he’s run face-first into a brick wall.
Cat Cafe with Hanoi Charm
Aliu is Hanoi’s answer to the cat café trend that, for better or for worse, has taken the world by storm. And if you are looking for giggles, cuddles and hilarious photo opportunities, it’s worth at least one visit.
Now, excuse me while I go pluck cat hair from my clothes before my allergies kick in. — Noey Neumark
Aliu is at Ngo Xuong Phim, 4 Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi