Where do you like to take your dose of caffeine and settle down in front of your computer? Jesse Meadows and Nick Ross tell us what our judges said
To the delight of coffee addicts everywhere, Vietnam is ripe with great cafés. So much so that when travelling to other Southeast Asian cities, we sometimes expect to be able to trip and fall over a coffee house every few metres, and are surprised to find it isn’t the same. So we come back home, head to our favourite coffee corner, and breathe a sigh of relief.
When we’re not on the sidewalk, it seems the coffee drinkers of Hanoi are at Cong Caphe — the popular chain, started in 2007, was the favourite last year, and is still holding on to the number one spot for its delicious coconut coffees and distinctive Communist decor. Maison de Tet’s locally-sourced, home-roasted brews and impeccable interior design earnt it second place, followed by the co-working hub and art venue Spacebar, a daily stop for the city’s digital nomads, and host of regular art and music nights during the week.
Had O’Douceur’s votes not been split between two locations, it would have taken first place. The French patisserie opened a second store in Tay Ho this year, and its custom-made cakes and cheap, delicious sandwiches are keeping the neighbourhood fed and happy.
In Ba Dinh, artspace Manzi provides a place for people to gather in a French villa that hosts regular exhibitions, poetry readings, and artist talks. The Hanoi Social Club is a favourite in Hoan Kiem for its homey feel and spectacular menu full of vegan comfort foods. Stop by on a Tuesday to catch the Tiny Music Club, a regular night of live music on the rooftop.
Southeast Asian chain Joma provides organic fair-trade coffee from Laos, and Western fare like turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie, with 10% of profits supporting community initiatives and NGOs like Hagar International.
No café list would be complete without Café Giang, which claims to have invented the egg coffee in Hanoi when milk was scarce in 1946. The small café is tucked away in the Old Quarter on Nguyen Huu Huan, so visitors may have to hunt for it if they want a taste of history.
Oriberry has the best views on the list, with a second-storey balcony that looks out over West Lake, locally-sourced Vietnamese coffee, and a large collection of handmade pottery for sale. Fair warning; their banana cake is known to be addictive.
The Top 10
1) Cong Caphe
2) Maison de Tet
5) O’ Douceurs Tay Ho
6) O’ Douceurs Hoan Kiem
7) Hanoi Social Club
=9) Café Giang
Just Outside The Top 10
Café Pho Co
Ho Chi Minh City
Like last year, the runaway winner for top café in Saigon was L’Usine. Despite recently being sold to a foreign investor, it seems the overall product — the food, coffee, décor and space — still woos our readers in both the Le Loi and Dong Khoi locations.
Also enticing our judges is another long-time favourite — Mekong Merchant in District 2 — while industrial-style café and restaurant, Kokois, also brings in the punters and the votes.
Two other District 2 purveyors of caffeine and more make the list — The Loop and the popular, Vietnamese-run Dolphy Café — while back over the river in District 1, The Workshop with its rustic, open plan, top-floor space is a hot favourite.
Unlike their compadres in Hanoi, Saigonese, however, seem to like their chains, and Starbucks, RuNam and Phuc Long have found themselves a spot in the top nine, while Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Urban Station and Khanh Casa nestle into joint tenth. The only surprise is the lack of votes for Trung Nguyen and Highlands Coffee. Once the biggest, best and brightest of the café chains in this country, these days they seem to have lost their appeal.
Time to mourn? We don’t know. What we do know is that these two café chains have had an enormous impact on the industry. The problem for them is that everyone else has now caught up.
The Top 9
2) Mekong Merchant
4) The Workshop
5) Café RuNam
=6) The Loop
8) Phuc Long
All With the Same Votes at Number 10
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The Coffee Factory
Over 100 judges took part in this survey. We asked them to vote on the following criteria:
— Quality of Coffee
— Value for Money
— Food and additional drinks
— Overall Experience