Pat a Chou
French-style bakery treats.
French-style bakery treats.
This multilevel lakeside spot is definitely worth the journey north to Tay Ho. It’s really three restaurants in one with an innovative bistro (try the sashimi or crab cakes), an oyster bar, and excellent wood-fired pizzas. Check the website for what’s happening with the live music schedule.
Occupying a tastefully restored old building this intimate restaurant is setting new gastro standards in the Old Quarter. It delivers a contemporary take on fine dining, with a short well-chosen menu of Western food including ravioli, lamb and very fine desserts (try the fig cheesecake).
An elegant villa-with-swimming-pool setting is the venue for this impressive restaurant, overseen by the warm and welcoming former sommelier and Frenchman Gils Brault. Champions of fine food served through indulgent set menus, Trois Gourmands is worth the trek: cheese-lovers can come for the selection alone, made in-house, while the wine choice is naturally strong.
On three funky levels with retro furniture, the Hanoi Social Club is the city's most cosmopolitan cafe. Dishes include potato fritters with chorizo for breakfast, and pasta, burgers and wraps for lunch or dinner.
Hopping with evening diners, this chain of makeshift-looking al-fresco barbecue restaurants is fun, boisterous, outgoing and tasty. Grab yourself a wooden box seat, a cold beer and chow down on BBQ and hotpot alongside a mix of locals, travellers and expats. Branches move about so check on the latest address.
For discount designer dining, look no further than this stylish cafe-restaurant offering Vietnamese favourites at fair prices. While its location and look would suggest it’s aimed at tourists, it’s a testament to its quality and affordability that locals are usually in the majority.
Stylish cafe with decent Vietnamese food, including tapas-sized plates of interesting snacks like barbecued beef in betel leaves, and chicken and beef lemongrass satay sticks. Noodle dishes, soups and spring rolls are also available, and it's a top place for an end-of-day beer or cocktail. Coffee and cake is another post-trekking option.
A highly atmospheric and enjoyable restaurant, 69 occupies a historic house and features heavy old wooden beams and subtle lighting. The creative menu is predominantly Vietnamese (try grilled fish mousse served on lemongrass sticks, or the green papaya and beef salad) and there’s a commendably decent vegetarian selection.
In a chic modern space, Pots 'n Pans specialises in innovative fusion dishes blending Vietnamese and European influences. Service is professional from graduates of KOTO, a training organisation for disadvantaged teens.
Xuan Hong is a 'floating' seafood restaurant, a fish-farm-cum-restaurant at Ben Beo Pier, where you can get up close and personal with your dinner first. Select a live victim or two from the pen and they’ll be grilled, fried or steamed for your table in no time.
The antiquated atmosphere here is legendary, and its rickety floors, overcrowded tables and gruff wait staff live up to the billing. Head straight upstairs for the full-on experience, and leave behind all expectations of a relaxed midday repast.
The perfect broth for pho (rice-noodle soup) should look as though it was ladled from the river. It's opaque and brownish after beef bones have boiled in it for hours. Some places try to take the mystery out of pho by serving weak, see-through broths, but here you get the good stuff. Once you've experienced it you'll understand why some can't start their day without a bowl.
With cheese and charcuterie plates, pork terrine and local smoked trout, the Hill Station Deli & Boutique is a stylish new addition to the Sapa dining scene. Factor in some of Sapa's best coffee and an interesting array of international beers and wines, and you've got cosmopolitan options if you've just arrived overland from Laos. It's also a top spot for breakfast.
Midway between town and coast on the beach road, this smart deli-restaurant has excellent sandwiches, salads, breakfasts, pasta and filling Western grub – even Aussie pies – as well as all the espresso coffee combos you could want. Inside it’s a smart air-con space with leather sofas for lounging and Macs for surfing, while the rear garden has kids’ climbing frames.
For festive and exotic atmosphere it doesn't get any better. Thankfully, Emperor follows through with sophisticated and rewarding contemporary Vietnamese food. Choose your setting: the lush courtyard, inside the traditional Asian wooden house, or up on the balcony. Be sure to include an order of shrimp paste on sugar cane, which makes for a fun and delicious starter.