Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More Favorite Cafés in Hanoi

Hey, it's hard work having mouse-catching duties for a school, a cathedral, and a long row of cafés...

I’m behind in my posts, I know. I have many drafts of posts, full of photos that I’ve already uploaded, but providing the text for those posts is more time-consuming – so I put it off. I’m good at putting things off.

Today, though, I thought I’d slap together some photos (and a bit of text) from a couple cafés in Hanoi that I frequent. They both serve decent coffee, but it’s the environment of each place that I appreciate more than anything.

The first café I’ve included here, So Hot, draws me to it for different reasons. One is the location. It’s right next to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and from just about anywhere in the café one has a nice view of it. Two is the interior. I’m not saying that I want to decorate my own home the same way, but it’s just so different from other cafes, and each of the three floors, thanks to the open windows and abundant light, is comfortable despite the somewhat narrow space. The third is that they give complimentary glasses of nước ngô (sweet, corn-flavored water) with one’s drinks, which might sound strange to some but personally I think the stuff is pretty tasty. The fourth is that I like to commune with a cat that someone tethers to a tree in front of the café. I have my little idiosyncracies, what can I say…

Plush and posh. On a Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m., I had the place almost entirely to myself.

On weekends, as expected, it does get crowded. Better to come early and claim a window seat with a view of St. Joseph's Cathedral.

The coffee here is pretty good, and at 18,000 dong ($.92) there’s nothing about it one can really find fault with. So Hot offers your standard Vietnamese drinks as well as a medium-sized selection of Asian and Western dishes. Nothing here will knock your socks off, but people come here for the atmosphere rather than for great meals.

Prime real estate -- the best seat in the café, in my opinion.

The service isn’t bad, either, in the sense that the employees won’t bother you for English lessons or lean against a near wall and stare at you. When I asked about the nước ngô, I was invited into the kitchen to see what the cafe uses to make it. (One boils green corn husks and corn silk with water and sugar for ten minutes.) With free wi-fi, this is the sort of place one can while away hours in a day.

Nothing like strong black coffee and sweet corn water to get you going...

So Hot is located at 2 Nha Tho Street, sandwiched between an old yellow school and a row of ground floor sidewalk cafés, and with awesome views of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
(The cat mostly stays sleeping behind the big tree in front. If you don’t see it at first, just say “Mèo ơi” and I can almost guarantee that it will start meowing at you.)

I'd snuck up on it while it was asleep and was about to get some close-up shots, but the security guard clapped his hands and the cat immediately woke up. He was pretty groggy, though, as you can see here.

I asked the security guard if the cat had a name. He said no, then asked me if we name our cats in America. When I said that we do, he then asked if we eat cats in America. I said no, there'd be no reason to name a cat if we were only going to eat it.

Demanding people get on my nerves, but demanding cats are funny and cute. This one can never get enough petting.

The second café I’ve included here is Segafredo, an Italian café located on Xuan Dieu Street in West Lake.

I come here several mornings a week to write. It’s a good place to get work done. Even when there are a lot of customers, it never feels very crowded. It can get a bit noisy with the music they constantly play (warning: their song selections tend to be irksome, unless you’re really into boy bands and Abba), but overall it’s a nice workspace.

They have a western menu, too, and prices to match. The waiters and waitresses are some of the nicest I’ve ever run across in Hanoi, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with an order. The food is not much to blog about, unless one wants to complain about the prices, but the coffee and espresso drinks aren’t bad at all.

I usually get a medium-sized Americano, which costs 33,000 dong ($1.69), and if I haven’t had breakfast I might also pay 60,000 to 80,000 ($3 to $4) for a veggie omelet or a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant.

They also have a decent selection of desserts, including a carrot cake that’s worth trying. The place is nearly deserted at night, especially on the weekends, which is a little strange since West Lake simply crawls with Westerners – who comprise most of the café’s clientele.

Segafredo is at 36 Xuan Dieu in the West Lake district of Hanoi. Tel: (04) 3718-0212. Website:

That’s all for now. I’ll try to do better with my next blog posts!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


  1. To eat a cat for dinner,...yakkes! What lovely places you visited here!! That posh restaurant looks fabulous!!

    The segafredo coffees are always really good & tasty. My husband likes all their coffees.Those desserts call my name ,...ooh yes!

  2. I love your blog. I'm coming to Hà Nội in two weeks and I intend to visit these cafes.