Avoiding the Midday Heat

Last week was one of those rare weeks where I found myself at a bit of a loss of things to do. Consequently, I spent a lot of time enjoying some of Saigon’s millions of cafés, whiling away the hours with coffee and snacks. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to review some of my favourite mid-afternoon hideouts.

1) For the Working Lunch

ID Café, 61B Tu Xuong Street, District 3, HCMC (http://www.idcafe.net/)

This café is hidden away down a small alleyway off Tu Xuong Street. When you enter the main gates, you are greeted by a gorgeous rainforest-style patio. Heading up to the second floor, it is clear that this place is popular with the locals, more specifically, young professionals; I imagine the free Wifi keeps them coming back for more. The reason I keep returning to this wonderful café though is for their ‘bún chả giò’ (deep fried spring rolls on a bed of Vermicelli noodles, covered in a blend of fish sauce and peanuts). It sounds strange to the untrained eye, I know, but it’s actually considered one of the more ‘boring’ Vietnamese lunch dishes. For me though, it hits all the right spots; carbs, tick! Greasy goodness, tick! Nuts, tick! What’s not to like? Similarly, their fruit smoothies are to die for. I usually opt for either the coconut or passionfruit but the menu is well and truly endless.

Not the best representation of ID, but I'm a little obsessed with the Oile Pastel setting on my phone!

Not the best representation of ID, I agree, but I’m a little obsessed with the Oil Pastel setting on my phone!

2) The Guilty Pleasure

Kesera Café Bar, 26/1 Le Thanh Ton, District 1, HCMC (http://www.keserakesera.com/)

This is another ‘back-alley delight’ and is my (not-so-secret) guilty pleasure. Cheesecake is the culprit here. I have never, in my entire 25 years of living, ever tasted such divine cheesecake as I have in this café; a New York style baked cheesecake with lightly whipped cream cheese and a perfectly crunchy biscuit base. I usually order this along with a hot Italian coffee (very rare in Saigon!) because it is served in the cutest ceramic cup and saucer with a tiny wooden stirring spoon and a minute piece of shortbread on the side; the perfect size for my Hobbit stomach. This is the place I go to when I need to escape Asia for a moment and indulge in some home comforts. All that’s missing is the cosy fire and the slippers!

3) For Value for Money:

Cuc Gach Café, 79 Phan Kế Bính, Đa kao, District 1, HCMC (http://www.cucgachcafe.com.vn/)

This is actually part of a chain of ‘countryside’ restaurants; there are 3 dotted around the city. I regularly go to the restaurant on Dang Tat Street (District 1) for dinner, but have only recently been introduced to the lunchtime hang out in the same District. The set up is the same as the restaurant; an old converted Vietnamese house, with antique furniture and a homely vibe. I come here mainly for their set lunches which they have every Friday. For just 80,000vnd (£2.50) you receive a 5 course lunch consisting, usually, of 2 types of fish, 1 type of meat and 2 vegetable dishes. Accompanying all this, you also get a huge bowl of rice, a light soup/broth and unlimited green tea, what a bargain! Also, on the first day of each lunar month, they offer a vegetarian version for the same price, with equally as delicious food; the garlic mushrooms and the fried tofu are my particular highlights.

Amazing drinks presentation at Cuc Gach!

Amazing drinks presentation at Cuc Gach!

A small sample of the (non-vegetarian) set menu

A small sample of the (non-vegetarian) set menu

Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns have added some colour to the place recently

Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns have added some colour to the place recently

4) For a Taste of Europe

Une Journee a Paris, 234 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1, HCMC

I think I spoke too soon when labelling Kesera as my ‘Guilty Pleasure’. This small French patisserie offers some of the most delightful pastries, baguettes and cakes in Saigon. We’re talking buttered croissants, lemon meringues, macaroons, croque monsieurs, melted brie and camembert on a variety of freshly baked loaves and some wonderful fresh salmon; my mouth waters just at the thought of it. I imagine this café offers the perfect setting for a continental breakfast, however I only ever really venture there for a late afternoon snack. The decor is light and airy, plenty of bright colours and simplistic furniture; it’s an extremely peaceful atmosphere which is very necessary, as just outside, you are thrown back into the chaos of Ben Thanh Market. It’s definitely worth battling the hyperactivity for though, if not for the food, then for the very attractive French owners!

5) For Something Unique

Bazaar, 175 Vo Thi Sau, Ward 7, District 3, HCMC (https://www.facebook.com/BazaarCoffeeShop)

This has fast become my favourite afternoon hideout. I actually only stumbled across this cafe about a month ago, which is surprising as it is directly next door to CEFALT. Embedded into a crumbling wall and battling with a huge tree directly outside its main windows, it’s not hard to see how I’ve missed it previously. It is the quaintest little place though; split across 2 floors, there’s a small shop on the ground floor and a coffee lounge area on the second. However, by Western standards, the entire building is the total height of just one floor. Even as a 5ft1 woman, I struggled to negotiate my way up the minute winding staircase to the lounge. But this just adds to the charm of the place. The decor just screams vintage, the moment you enter you just know you are about to overload Instagram with snaps. There are brightly coloured shutters, along with a curtain made purely of coffee mugs, a painted brick wall where people can leave notes and the smallest wooden chairs and benches. It’s a pure Hobbit heaven; I’d say a maximum of 5 Western-sized individuals could squeeze into this place. Caution:  Any visitors over 5ft should probably be wary of low hanging lights, door frames, shelves and bird cages!

Me on the 2nd floor!

Me on the 2nd floor!

Cute birdcage decorations

Cute birdcage decorations

Curtain of Mugs

Curtain of Mugs

Cool stools

Cool stools

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 15:25:26

    Hi Kerri

    Reading this makes me want to visit one last time before you return!

    Tim

    Reply

  2. philososo
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 22:08:20

    I am getting hungry reading this :3

    Reply

  3. laurensvanderheijden
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 12:59:30

    I’ll definitely re-read this once I get down to Ho Chi Minh 🙂 Thanks for liking my post even though I’m a backpacker which you appearantly so despise 😛

    Reply

    • kerril29
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 13:33:06

      Haha, no no I don’t despise backpackers at all, just is something I could never do! I admire the patience and perseverance of all backpackers, you’re all made of much stronger stuff than me 😀 thanks for taking the time to comment, you should definitely try out some of the places I mention, especially Bazaar cafe (very unique and off the beaten track!) 🙂

      Reply

  4. Cathy
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 18:51:06

    Kerri, what you posted is value for the HCM citizen like me. thank you 🙂 and see you tomorrow @ one of the coffee shop you wrote. I buy you a drink as a thank for being my customer 🙂

    Reply

  5. Viven C
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 09:28:17

    Great blog. Will visit these places as I am visiting Saigon now. I’m Vietnamese but left my country with my parents when I was very young because of the War. You give me a glymse of life in Vietnam, my birth country. Thanks for sharing your stories and reccommendations I’m going to show my parents too.

    Reply

    • kerril29
      Dec 31, 2013 @ 14:56:19

      No problem at all – I’m so glad you have found my blog helpful! Have a wonderful time exploring Vietnam, it is such a beautiful country!

      Reply

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