Modern with character
6B Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
T: (04) 3923 4231
You don’t have to walk far in Hanoi to find a coffee shop, and you don’t have to walk much further to find one with character, such as longstanding, narrow Cafe Duy. Align 3D Graphics Cafe has character in a modern, designed way and also has a wider menu than you’ll find at a streetside coffee shop.
Align Cafe (for short) is hardly hiding its light under a bushel — it has a website (in Vietnamese), two locations and plenty of media attention — but it still feels like a pleasant surprise when you chance upon it.
The branch in Old Quarter is off Duong Thanh, down an alleyway next to Joseph’s Hang Da Hotel. You can check out the menu on the pavement at the start of the alleyway to save a wasted walk, but it’s worth a wander inside even if you choose not to stop for a drink.
It’s the building and the decor that really set Align Cafe apart: the owners have designed a space which is both cool and cosy. The cafe occupies a large, detached building, and is accessed via a bamboo-lined alleyway and a bridge across a goldfish pond. The space is divided into rooms, presumably the original layout, and covers two floors. Walls are brick, decked with dark wood panels and classy photographs of Vietnam, and seating is primarily sofas and matching ottomans. But that’s not all: blossom trees grow up the centre of two of the rooms, and rather than looking overdone and showy, it somehow works. Limited seating is also available outside by the front entrance and on two small terraces upstairs, overlooking the alleyway and fish pond.
As for the menu, it bears a striking resemblance to the menu at coffee shop chain Highlands Coffee, though with the addition of alcoholic drinks. Given the environment is so well considered, it’s a shame that the menu it gaudy and tatty, but it’s what’s on it that counts, and that includes hot and cold beverages, juices, blended drinks, lassies, milkshakes, beer and a small but varied range of Western and Vietnamese food. Prices are above those you’d pay at a standard local coffee shop, with coffee starting at 33,000 VND but you’re paying for the environment and service. For a change, try the Bac Xiu coffee, described as Saigon coffee, with lots of ice and milk.
Align Cafe is a good place to visit any time of day: a morning coffee, lunchtime sandwich, afternoon tea and cake, dinner or a beer and snacks. Fanny’s Ice Cream is also available.
The only downside of the place is that it it can get noisy with lots of young Vietnamese congregating here — not just with chitchat but with the sound of games being played on mobile phones (what happened to conversation?). The noise can detract from what should be a pleasant and relaxed stop off.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 21st August, 2014.