I’ve been meaning to do a post on my favorite cafe in Hanoi for a while and now that I am back from London I think it is one of the few restaurants/cafes from Hanoi that could actually carve out a bit of a niche there and be a big success. Photos from the Uk to come next post.
Cong Caphe is a unique chain – I realize that this statement is a bit if an oxymoron – however, it is one of those places that manages not to feel like a typical chain. Each of the cafes has a similar aesthetic yet they all have a slightly different rustic feels with varying layouts, the odd vintage fan and mismatched antique furniture.
Originally, the menus were hand scribbled on pages of an old Vietnamese biography of Lenin – I’m not sure whether this caused controversy or as the chain expanded it simply became impractical. Incidentally, yesterday was Lenin’s birthday – Vietnam must be one of the few places where his birthday is still celebrated! They also manage other ‘non-chain’ like touches such as using old chipped enamel mugs. Cong Caphe is part of a growing trend in Hanoi to hark back to the hard, old days (pre Doi Moi) rather than always copying shiny, modern designs from nearby countries.
Here is what they say about themselves: ‘Cộng Càphê (which means Viet Cong in Vietnamese) recalls the socialist era with humour and parody with its bare brick walls, dark wood handmade tables, propaganda posters and slight militaristic hint’. More on their website here.
The menu is simple with the best thing of course being the coffee. They use robusta, the main variety grown in Vietnam, which has then received some sort of magic treatment to add flavor and take away the bitterness. One can then choose to have the coffee straight, with ice, with ice and condensed milk (my favorite) or even with yoghurt or iced coconut – the latter morphing more into a bit of a Vietnamese affagato!
A few pictures taken with instagram over the last few months at my local one on Dien Bien Phu and the one near my school. Another plus is that the hound is always welcome! They are now all over the city and I can think of six off the top of my head – but check the website for the exact addresses.