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28 May 2015

Food Glorious Food in Hanoi

As you'll know, if you read my blog regularly, we recently went on a holiday to Vietnam with the first stop being Hanoi. Of course, whilst we were there we needed to eat and naturally being in Vietnam we wanted to eat lots of delicious Vietnamese food. My husband has penned a post about some of the best food we sampled. If you like what you read you can find him on Twitter, @AskSirStamford 



The first day we were in Hanoi we had a walk around the old quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. We also got tickets to see the Water Puppet show the next day, which was an amazing show by the way, (more on that in an upcoming blog post), after booking the tickets though we ended up in a bar called Le Pub. As it was just after lunch we had a look at the menu and hoped to order some nosh. I had not eaten on the aeroplane as Singapore Airlines regional menu often offers rubbish, barely edible food. However, there was a problem, a power cut in the kitchen meant there was no food. A Halida beer and a glass of wine (actually three of each) had to suffice. On the way back to the hotel I decided to be very bold and order a bbq’d pork kebab baguette from a street vendor outside the pub (I have always shied away from such stupidity) and it was absolutely fabulously tasty, a little spicy, in a mild way, but with freshness from the coriander leaves bursting through with every bite of crispy doughy goodness. The meat itself was succulent, juicy and beautifully cooked, perhaps it was the electric fan used to control the heat or the glowing of the coals that helped.


This was part of the menu at Le Pub which unfortunately wasn't available when we visited, but what's a Special Facial Grilled Squid??

In the evening we ventured to a familiar restaurant, for me anyway, as I have been to Hanoi many times with a former employer and stayed in the hotel around the corner. Quan An Ngon is a famous restaurant, listed in all the guidebooks, it is essentially a series of hawker type stalls serving a vast variety of Vietnamese dishes, ranging from pho, to spring rolls to pancakes to everything (yup, Vietnamese menus are very extensive), although one orders from a menu at your table rather than going up to individual stalls. The day we went was slap bang in the middle of Tet (Lunar New Year in Vietnam) so the place was very busy and we had to wait for a table. I suggest you wait and don’t go to the restaurant across the road, it’s very ruff, as in barking. After we were seated the extensive menu was supplied, drinks ordered and the process of food decisions started. We eventually ordered fried spring rolls (we had these a lot over the course of the week), fresh spring rolls (rice paper rolls stuffed with prawns, noodles and salad), barbecued lemongrass pork ribs, beef in salt and chili (chunks of delicious beef dipped in salt, chili and lime) and a bowl of pho bo, I have had this every time I have been to this place. We also ordered a rice dish which never came or perhaps the waitress was trying to tell us it was not available, we could not work that bit out. The food was delivered promptly and was wonderful, flavoursome and very tasty.


Fried spring rolls
BBQ lemongrass pork ribs
Fresh spring rolls
Pho Bo
Beef in salt and chili

As one of the main courses did not arrive we decided to go to the bar around the corner for drinks and something else to eat. The Rooftop Bar is situated on the top floor (19th floor I think) of the Pacific Place building (next to the wonderful Movenpeck Hotel) and therefore offers stunning night time views across the city. To the north one can see the Flag Tower and Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place lit up like a Christmas tree or Chinese Lantern and the Hoan Kiem Lake area to the East (directions may be wrong, but sit on the outside terrace for these views). At the bar we ordered drinks, Hanoi Beer for me (always try to be environmentally friendly and consume the local ale upon my travels) and a wine for the blog owner. Looking at the menu it seemed to be tapas style with Vietnamese dishes. We ordered a platter, including spring rolls (we did eat a lot of these during the week), beef wrapped in asparagus and some French Fries (nod to the west). As we ate we drank in the aforementioned views before taking our jet-lagged Western heads, we'd only been back in Singapore one night before heading off to Vietnam following our trip back to the UK and those castle visits, back to the enormous hotel bed in the Metropole.


View from the Rooftop Bar across Hanoi

On Tuesday morning, after a fine sumptuous breakfast in the hotel, we visited the grave and working quarters of a former Vietnamese communist, Ho Chi Minh and decided to have a late lunch in a restaurant recommended by one of this blog owner's work colleagues. We had planned a visit to the Water Puppets that evening so would not have time for dinner before the show. After a few directional mishaps (I walked the wrong way down the right street) and a taxi ride, we arrived at the restaurant. It was called Au Lac House and was situated in a French style villa on a tree lined avenue, one could have been in Paris, except for the throng on mopeds and chaos of the street below. We were directed upstairs to the deserted veranda overlooking the busy bustling Hanoi street, if you fancied a feather duster there was a woman on a motorcycle selling them down below us. The tables at Au Lac were covered in tartan table cloths (a bit out of place, does the Auld Alliance stretch into former French colonies?) and were set for what promised to be a great meal. Orders were taken, drinks served and we sat back to watch the world go about its business on the street below.

We had ordered an appetiser platter, consisting of spring rolls (of course), in fresh and seafood variety, chicken wings and some little rice paper prawn pancakes. The mains were a plate of chili chicken cooked with lemongrass, kailan cooked in garlic and some mixed vegetable fried rice. All the food was excellent and tasty, but perhaps we ordered too much, another common theme of our Vietnamese trip.


Our veranda view at Au Lac House
Appetiser platter to start
Mixed vegetable fried rice
Kailan cooked in garlic
Chili chicken with lemongrass

Upon leaving we passed a fine looking drawing room, where one presumes a chap may have taken a cigar, back in the day. I decided to test my navigational skills again with a walk back to the hotel. On the way we passed a German beer hall where the activities on offer were obvious, Drinking or Drinking, or so the sign outside said. As recommendations go Au Lac House was excellent and I duly forward the sentiments and thanks through this blog.

In the evening we had arranged to go to see the Water Puppets at the main theatre on the lake, so a late dinner was needed after the show. After a wander and some hazardous road crossing in the dark, crossing roads is hard enough in daylight when one has a perception of the direction of the random traffic streams but impossible at night, we decided upon another rooftop bar, overlooking the lights of the Hoan Kiem Lake, near the island temple. The restaurant was on the seventh floor of the building that also housed many bars with similar views and was called Cau Go. We sat on the outside terrace and ordered food from the menu under iPhone and candlelight, including the usual fried spring rolls, chicken skewers, beef and ginger hotpot and streamed rice. The beef was sensational and the spring rolls were great and served in a novel and unusual little basket. In fact the whole meal was excellent until clearly wanting to close (it was about 9:30pm) the waiter arrived with the bill. The place blotted their copybook the next day / afternoon however when they wouldn’t serve just drinks as we needed to eat too, there was no option of just having a drink in the sunshine. We went back to Le Pub for drinks instead.


Evening view from Cau Go across the Hoan Kiem lake
Beef and ginger hotpot
Chicken skewers



On my first trip to Hanoi in 2012 a client took me to a wonderful restaurant in the Old Quarter of the town, called Green Tangerine, and I had been attempting to re-find the place, without success, ever since. I rediscovered it on my last trip to Hanoi in December 2014 and decided on our last evening there to give the place a holiday try-out. Green Tangerine is also located within an old French style villa, although those from Singapore may say that it is more of a shophouse type building, with a large terrace at the front, closed off from the road by the entrance, and further tables inside (and upstairs). The inside has a French café style bar, reminiscent of the bar in the British sit-com ‘Allo ‘Allo (listen very carefully I will say this only once). We sat inside and perused the menu, which could be described as modern French-Vietnamese fusion. There was also a set Vietnamese menu targeted at the mainly tourist clientele, the restaurant was expensive and therefore filled with Western non-locals which I assumed were tourists, like us. We chose the Vietnamese set menu option. Unfortunately, I neglected to take many pictures of the food as I was too busy eating it, perhaps that is a good sign as to the quality of the meal.


Interior of the Green Tangerine

We were supposed to be on a flight to Saigon at about 8pm on the Friday of our holiday, after having taken a trip to Halong Bay before leaving Hanoi (more on that soon). Whilst waiting for the car to the airport in the glorious Bamboo Bar of the Metropole Hotel and checking our emails and social media, after two largely unconnected days in Halong Bay, I received a mail from the airline (the only thing Jetstar Pacific did right all day) informing us that the flight was two and a half hours delayed. So after the airport transfer was re-arranged, the hotel in Saigon informed we decided to go for one last dinner in the city, a better option than the expected bowl of pho in the airport. 

When I was in Hanoi in November / December I had visited another French villa style restaurant around the corner from the hotel with colleagues and we decamped here for an early supper pre-airport. The villa was complete with a decaying Citroen in the drive and was very ornate. It was called the Ly Club and we were informed upon arrival that they were fully booked but we could have a table as long as we were out by 7:45pm (it was 6pm and we had a delayed flight to catch), fine, done, seated. Dinner was excellent, as most meals were in Hanoi and we even tried Vietnamese wine, with the red Merlot being perfectly drinkable to my non-cultured palate. The usual spring rolls were ordered along with a chili beef mince dish that was served with little fried rice cakes which were hand-held and topped with the sauce, these were brilliant and a little different to stuff we had had earlier in the week. We also had a roast chicken dish and some rice.


Interior of Ly Club


Glasses of red and white Vietnamese wine


Our trip, from a food perspective, could not have begun better and there was only more to come in Ho Chi Minh!

Read about what we did when we weren't eating in Hanoi here and here.

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