First introduced by the Western traders in 1857 and popularized by French colonists, Vietnam has become the world’s second-largest coffee producer. What started out as an aspiration by the Vietnamese people to mimic the French coffee culture, it eventually became rooted deep into the local Vietnamese culture – whether young or old, poor or rich – it’s in every corner of the streets of Vietnam.
Given that, it was definitely not an excuse for us to pass the chance to experience the unique flavours of Vietnamese coffee - a drink that will never be forgotten.
Along the street famous for its silk and hand-painted drawings, lies a hidden gem. The hunt for this cafe is worth every effort as you will be rewarded for not only a good cup of Vietnamese coffee but one fantastic view of the Old Quarter's famed tourist spot.
This is Cafe Pho Co, or Lake View Cafe - a simple cafe that is well-hidden and easily missed by any passing pedestrian. If you have not heard of this well beforehand, you're most likely going to miss this hangout spot.
For us, getting into the cafe was quite an interesting journey.
When we first walked into the dimmed corridor, we kept assuring ourselves "It's ok, don't worry, just go straight in, it's in there".
Seriously, it didn't looked very right at first. But once we saw the light at the end of the corridor and being greeted at the courtyard, we felt so relieved. But the "adventure" was not over.
Once we had made our order at the courtyard, we were asked to find our own way up to the open air rooftop. It started with a small, narrow staircase to the second level where the family shrine is located. I was starting to panic as it didn't look like any cafe, as though we were trespassing into someone's house.
But then, we continued up an old spiral staircase until we reached a space that looked more familiar - plastic chairs and aluminium tables with people chatting and drinking coffee. We have arrived.
While we waited for our drink, we sat back on our chairs and relaxed while we enjoyed the beautiful view of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Many people recommended to have cha phe trung hot instead but because we were super hot and tired from all the walking, that we decided to have the cold version. Still a good choice as long as you don't wait until the ice to completely melt before you finish the drink.
The coffee was fantastic - intense flavour with some bitterness at the end. The egg mixture was like whipped cream, except that it is more airy and light, giving the coffee a nice smooth texture. Plus, it really did taste like a very good chilled tiramisu dessert. Boy, I should have ordered more of this.
Highly recommended if you're at Hanoi.
Looking for this place is actually not that difficult as commented by many. Shops are numbered well, and all you need is to go to Hang Gai Street, and look out for Lot 11. The entrance into Cafe Pho Co is sandwiched between a silk shop and an art shop. And yes, it is a bit suspicious at the start but persevere and you'll be rewarded.
Come to think about it now, being the "trespasser" is pretty fun!
Cafe Pho Co
11P Hang Gai