Straight up ice cream
Duong Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
If you drive north along Hanoi’s Duong Thanh Nien, which passes between Truc Bach Lake and West Lake, on a sunny weekend afternoon, be prepared to swerve around the crowds gathered outside of Kem Ho Tay: West Lake Ice Cream.
While there’s plenty of seating inside by the lake, it seems most customers prefer the takeaway option, sitting on their bikes or standing in the shade of the many trees which line the pathway. Clearly the ice cream – and not paying for parking — is worth the toot of a horn or getting your toes run over.
Kem Ho Tay is near the northern end of the street, opposite Tran Quoc Pagoda, and besides the crowds outside, is easily spotted by its flashing neon sign, which alternately reads Kem, Kem Ho, Kem Ho Tay, and may or may show a visual of a bowl of ice cream.
The ice cream offer is a simple affair, with none of the bells and whistles of places such as Fanny’s or Sophie Ice Cream. For take away there’s a rather uninviting barred window up a few steps and facing the street. Here you can order an ice cream cone (oc que), or an ice cream on a stick. Sticks are available in chocolate (socola), mung bean (dau xanh) and green rice (com). They’re all 5,000 VND a go.
A few metres to the left is the soft ice cream hut. Here you can choose chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream in a cone. It’s pricier, at 10,000 VND for a small cone.
If you prefer to sit in, you can either order your own ice cream and carry it through or take advantage of the table service – if you can communicate your desires. Sitting in, the “three flavours in a glass” option opens up to you, at 15,000 VND, although there’s little choice on flavour: most go for the vanilla, chocolate and green rice combination, topped with chocolate sauce and served with a wafer, so you can point at one of those to make life easier.
The quality of the ice cream isn’t amazing, but it’s tasty enough and great value, particularly as you get to enjoy the lake view while digging in to the creamy goodness.
While not worth a special trip across town, if you’re in the area visiting Tran Quoc Pagoda or Quan Thanh Temple, or taking my tips on a walk around Truc Bach, it’s a good place to stop for a break. Children will be particularly happy to stop there, and at only 5,000 VND a go it won’t break the bank.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 28th January, 2015.