You are absolutely going to pay a premium for everything you get here, but it is a guilty pleasure that somehow always seems worth it. I totally get why some people complain about it, but the new space they moved into was like magic. It is the same product line, basically, and yet it feels like a different world.
Imported specialty foods are their thing. You can get all sorts of otherwise hard-to-find spices and ingredients for your own cooking. They have tons of baking supplies. The cheese and meat counter upstairs is very respectable. If you can handle the cost, there are things in here that will really let you stretch your legs in the kitchen in ways you may not have since moving to Hanoi.
The wine selection is fair, though you might as well go to Warehouse just down the street. They are owned by the same company. The spirits selection is also reasonable, probably the best in the neighbourhood.
They are also one of the biggest beer importers in the city. If you've got a nostalgic bent that can only be satisfied by (very expensive) English ales, they seem to be the place.
A final highlight is their baked goods selection. They put their extensive stock of grains and flours to great use. You can get some truly hearty loafs that are both delicious and filling. It has to be in the discussion for best bread in the area.
This is one of my payday splurges. If I made considerably more than I do now, I'd be in a time or two a week.
My sense is that this place is caught between being a product line (baked goods) and being a restaurant. If you've been paying attention, they have expanded widely of late. They have locations scattered all around the city now, but the new locations are almost exclusively the bakery. They even have locations in a local supermarket chain.
It wouldn't surprise me if they completely discontinue their restaurant on Xuan Dieu, at least to the extent that it strays from the basic bakery / patisserie format they are expanding with elsewhere.
In the long run, this may just be their most visible showcase location, but it is unclear how running a lacklustre restaurant furthers those other ambitions.
And then they took away the one meal left that I like and changed the warm goats cheese salad. It's no longer warm, has a small crumbling of cheese (no lovely rice paper wrapped crispiness.... the thing that made it zing!) and not worth 150.000vnd. After patronising this place for 5 years.... at one time visiting them once or twice a week, I'm loathe to go back.
Previously Review (Jan '15):
Also agree with the above. I used to go more often but now I go less. I have had some of my favorite dishes taken off the menu. I am now down to one meal that I like to order from them. I have tried other meals yet been really dissapointed.... tough steak, sloppy terrible mashed potatoe, a prawn risotto with one very tough prawn on top...... this has all been happening in the last 6 months. The service has definitely slipped as well. Last night at least 4 patrons had mistakes in their order and asked to be served. Not sure if it was because they were under staffed or what happened. Last night I ordered my usual warm goat cheese salad and that was it's usual good quality. I then tried the chai latte which turned up with out the froth, was weak and bitter in taste..... everything that a chai latte shoudn't be. It tasted like Marsala Chai. I asked for it to be replaced yet I think they just put froth on top ..... I know this, as I had put honey in the previous cup to see if it would improve it.. it still tasted of honey. Come on Saint Honore.... do some staff training and give incentives for work well done.... check the quality of the food and drink. Bring yourself back up to the quality you once had!
Allow me a moment to complete an expat rite of passage and declare where my allegiances lie with regards to Vietnamese coffee. Once we take the plunge and confirm we like the stuff, then it is of the essence that we establish ourselves as *discerning*.
I hereby declare my undying devotion to House...err..Cafe Lam. (Sorry. Too much Game of Thrones).
The coffee is of the subtle, bitter variety most akin to Duy Tri (among the usual suspects when it comes to these disputes). It doesn't come out as creamy and affected as Cafe Mai and has none of the yogurt/egg nonsense you get at Cafe Giang (now renamed, but I can't be bothered to learn the new name) or the likes of Cafe Pho Co. Still as potent as any around.
The location is Old Quarter-ish. It's right there, but it is totally not Old Quarter. Relatively fast moving one-way traffic on Nguyen Huu Huan makes it feel more integrated into the rest of the city. This is a thoroughfare and not some tourist street. It also means that you've got fine street scenes to take in should you decide to sit near the front. Maybe the only better people watching alternative is the balcony at Cafe Dinh, but good luck getting that to yourself. It is ALWAYS full.
The space is standard, narrow townhouse Hanoi. Fortunately, the room is wide enough that you don't feel on top of each other. The little wooden tables and chairs totally work here. I prefer to sit two-thirds the way back on the left. That way, I'm opposite the service bar in back and can get their attention for that second cup more easily. I also like the artwork on the opposite wall better, for what that is worth. Drinking coffee and staring at the wall never played so well.
The crowds are stellar cafe lovers of the first order. They seem somehow both very old school Hanoi and noticeably more cosmopolitan than most. They know what's up.
This is the Thai restaurant you take people to if they aren't really familiar with Thai food but seem interested in it in theory.
It is also a decent choice if they are going to want their Thai flavors toned down to the upper edges of what Hanoians will tolerate.
If you don't compare it other Thai food experiences you've had, particularly ones at sunset on a beach with utterly gorgeous companionship, then you can fairly conclude that some good food is served here.
The restaurant appears to have been cleaned up since some previous reviews, and it is mostly well-heeled professional class Vietnamese frequenting the place.
Usually the first place that springs to mind when I want delivery.
I don't dine in much, as it is in the first floor of a small hotel and it just feels strange.
Authentic Singaporean dishes from an established chain.
If using a delivery website or the like, note that you do or do not want it Singaporean style (or more for Hanoi tastes) and the difference in heat will be significant.
(and don't be a baby; get it Sing-style!)
Excellent service, no pain, little damage done to the wallet. Cannot praise Dr. Emily and all the team for the work in finding a satisfactory solution to filling a rather large gap left from a missing front tooth (more than 15 years since root was removed).
It was a given that I needed and implant but the tricky bit was how to fill the gap without me having a tombstone sized crown.
I am more than pleased with the result of new evenly spaced 3 crowns and a veneer so completely recommend anyone to use Serenity Clinic for any work however large or small ( also had a molar crown replaced plus 1 new crown and a substatial old filing replaced with a new white replacement).
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences online. It means a lot to us.
I will never forget your happy smile after all the treatments. You looked awesome with the new crowns!
I am sure that Mrs. Murray and your daughter must like them much?
Once again, thank you so much for your support and your faith in Serenity.
Best wishes to you and your family.
Serenity International Dental Clinic
Three stars seems fair. Most of my evenings there have been full of five star and one star moments. Little in between. It is beautiful. I want to enjoy drinking there. Service is crazy slow. Prices are high. Why not just drop the "bia hoi" pretence and up the product quality. it would be my regular beer garden if it didn't feel like it was fighting with itself so much.
Feels like my opinion of drinking in the entire Ta Hien area wrapped up into one place: depressing. Old Quarter bars like this used to be more inviting to expats than they have become. Now, it just feels like every joint just treats you like another anonymous face that will never be back. It's like seeing a comic perform several different times and realizing they have never written a new joke. It is always the same made up party atmosphere. If this were all Hanoi had anymore, a few nights in a row would have me walking off the Long Bien Bridge.
Being in backpacker central kept me out of this place for a long time. I ended up going to a wine tasting on the roof patio, and my opinion changed completely. One of the nicest spaces in Hanoi. I like few things more than having a drink up here overlooking the street scene below. Just knowing about it even seems to put you in good company, as the vast majority of the touring masses below pass by without even a look. They are all piled into the restaurant on the first floor. Look out for a wine event or music, and give it a shot. You'll be surprised.
The local legends whose place you'll drive right by even when you are looking for it. You are more likely to smell it than actually see it. Narrow as all hell, low ceilinged upstairs. Miniature wooden furniture. Tons of regulars. Old school Hanoi, for sure. The coffee itself? Some of the best in the city. Strong. Bitter. Pure. Available to take home in pre-dripped bottles or as ground beans. A must.
(To be sung to the tune 'Bad Brain' by The Ramones).
(Johnny Ramone shouting '1-2-3-4!')
Quyda fixed my computer, got it working again,
He did whatever he did, took away my pain.
Now let's all applaud Quyda, for his hi-tech brain.
His hi-tech brain! Hi-tech brain!
The dude likes his hop, probably House of Pain,
But that's not important, just saying He's Got Game.
And a hi-tech brain! Hi-tech brain!
He'll make your hard-drive groovy, get it right as rain.
It all went over my head, when he tried to explain.
My cerebral cortex is tiny, compared to that guy's brain.!
His his hi-tech brain! Hi-tech brain!
Hi-tech brain! Hi-tech brain!
Hi-tech brain! Hi-tech brain!
Hi-tech brain! Quyda's hi-tech brain!....
This is a quality under-the-radar wine shop that has never disappointed in terms of value for money or the handling of its stock. Read that sentence again. If you have bought much wine in Hanoi, you know that is borderline remarkable.
Like every wine merchant in the city, they mostly do wholesale to restaurants and bars. This is their little supplemental showroom. It is comfortably put together and the staff are helpful while being completely unobtrusive. No following you around and saying, "You should try this," about a wine their manager told them they need to move.
The broadest selections are of French wines, but the small numbers of wines they have from many other countries have proven fertile exploratory ground. In almost every instance, I've felt that I was getting exactly what I paid for, with nearly every bottle being mentally noted as good value by Hanoi standards.
In many ways, they seem to lack the extreme lower and higher ends that many of the bigger shops have. If you're comfortable spending 400,000 to 1,200,000 on a bottle, you'll find plenty you'll return for.
And yet the shop seems virtually unknown. I've never been there with another customer present. Not once in dozens of visits. If you're looking for a new list to work your way through, start here.
As far as beer clubs go, this is probably the one that would draw the highest praise from the foreign community were they to try it in numbers. Given its location deep in Cau Giay, that seems unlikely.
It has a fair amount going for it. For one, it has the obnoxious toned down significantly. It is a tastefully designed space that despite the gawdy potential of the Brazilian carnival theme and the accompanying murals, doesn't really feel overcooked. Turn your back to those muraled wall, and it really just comes off as a nicely outfitted beer hall.
The food is largely what you'd expect from a place that caters to large groups of Vietnamese revelers, but there's enough filling in the gaps to cover individual diners and smaller groups. It seemed reasonably priced, on the whole.
The real star of the show is the beer list. If you've seen many of the beer clubs, you'll understand that many carry the same beers as everyone else in the city. Sure, they may have a broader selection in one place, but that is about the extent of it. Carnaval actually has a few that appear unique to them. In fact, the draught Czech beer that they feature, Kozel, is the best imported draught beer I've found in Hanoi. It blows things like Budweiser Budvar and Saporro out of the water. It is comparable to the better local microbrews like Hoa Vien or Goldmalt.
If this were located somewhere between West Lake and the Old Quarter, it would be a meeting spot for many. It is well executed. As it stands, though (on the grounds of the old Mai Vien brewpub), don't expect to see many western faces.