Apr 21 2013
With a relaxed vibe, eclectic decor and wholesome food, The Hanoi Social Club has etched out a unique positioning for itself and is a perfect spot for a tasty lunch, naughty afternoon cake or chill-out with a beer.
When a new place opens in Hanoi we give it a while to settle down and to see if it’s got what it takes to survive in Hanoi’s competitive marketplace — there’s no point in writing about somewhere that closes a month later due to poor trade. From the start, The Hanoi Social Club looked to be a winner and now, in its second year, those first impressions have proven to be valid.
It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the concept. The choice of building — a century-old house — plus arty logo and furnishings and healthy menu all hang together and shout, “You’ll like me, come on in!”… but not too loudly.
Let’s start with the menu. The food — no Vietnamese options — is positioned as “soul food” and has a heavy emphasis on vegan and vegetarian cuisine, including tasty sounding dishes such as lentil pasta, mango curry with brown rice and roast pumpkin salad. Some dishes are also available gluten free.
But dedicated meat eaters have not been forgotten and can choose from the burger, a couple of meat-filled sandwiches — my companion had the pulled pork, Gouda and pickled cucumber sandwich and it looked like a winner — plus pheasant Goulash, chicken satay and Moroccan chicken served with couscous. Prices are a bit above average for a Western restaurant in the area, and, no, it’s not haute cuisine, but portions are hearty, food’s freshly prepared and ingredients are good quality.
Open from 08:00, it’s a good spot for a leisurely breakfast too — try the Bircher muesli or go simple with toast and jam. Alternatively, just stop by for a coffee and a cake — I hear the flourless chocolate cake is fantastic.
As for drinks, during the winter months the hot chocolate really was a healer for the soul; it was impossible to leave miserable after a cup of thick hot chocolate with fresh cream on the side. That’s not so appealing now the weather’s warmed up, so how about a lime mint slushie? Or head along in the evening for a beer, glass of wine or a classic cocktail. The rooftop bar is a good spot for a drink.
Bu the Hanoi Social Club’s appeal isn’t just about the food and drink. The decor is interesting and quirky, the music’s well chosen, and the vibe is just right for enjoying a relaxing coffee while reading a book or catching up on emails. Plus staff are all from the KOTO and Hoa Sua hospitality training schools for disadvantaged youth, which tends to guarantee they’ve been well trained. And building on its art, culture and community theme, it holds regular events, such as the recent Equinox Harvest dinner, catered by a guest chef, a night of the songs of famous musician Tring Cong Son and a ukelele workshop.
Hoi Vu Street is to the south of Hang Bong Street, west of Hoan Kiem lake. It’s a relatively quiet alleyway, also home to a few hotels and other cafe and street food options.The Hanoi Social Club
6 Hoi Vu Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
T: (04) 3938 2117
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.