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Hitting the right spot

By: Nguy Ha Posted: January-17-2011 in
Nguy Ha

With bars, cafes and restaurants in Hanoi’s Old Quarter playing up their gritty, Old Hanoi faux-French colonial credentials, it comes as a pleasant surprise to find a place that is willing to grasp modernity, comfort and the tastes of home as their guiding principle.

While other establishments flaunt their presentation, The Spot (47 Hang Be) lets its easy-going cool speak for itself. Divided up into three sections, the front is an open-air patio overlooking the street, bedecked in Vietnamese propaganda posters, making it ideal for people-watching or whiling away the hours before it’s respectable enough to have the first beer of the day (with draught Halida at a very reasonable 20,000VND).

Inside the tastefully lit bar dominates, with comfy sofas lining one wall, making it a perfect hang-out for all-important four-hour Facebook browsing sessions over a great iced latte (35,000 VND). Staff reflect the warm charm of the place, offering menus and avoiding that jack-in-the-box effect that many of the backpacker-centric establishments seem to specialise in. The room itself is done in muted white, purple and browns, warming up what could otherwise be sterile environment, with additional urban chic provided by some great large format photography. The music is also a plus, as you’d be hard pressed to hear an anh yeu em Vietnamese love song, as the selection is firmly tilted towards an urban music/intelligent hip-hop vibe. Beyond the main lounge area is the minimalist courtyard with gigantic sofas and armchairs. With Hanoi experiencing one of its mildest autumns, it’s a great place to catch some year-end rays.

But enough of the ambience, what about the food? The Full Monty breakfast weighs in at 120,000 VND and features the full panoply of two eggs, sausage, tomato, spinach, mushrooms, bacon, beans and French toast, while the equally priced eggs Benedict features eggs, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, ham and a creamy Hollandaise sauce, if meat isn’t your thing, plump for the Eggs Florentine with smoked salmon instead.
If it’s a bit late in the day for breakfast, there’s a wide range of salads to sample from European favourites such as Salad Nicoise or Greek salad or Oriental-inspired Pomelo or Prawn Lotus (prices vary from 100,000-120,000 VND).

Where The Spot comes into its own is with the chef’s specials, and there’s quite an inspired choice from seared seaseme tuna, salmon hollandaise with wasabi mashed potato, mayan smoked duck with chocolate chilli duck with passion fruit sauce, lemongrass clams with cream sauce, and chicken leg stewed in red wine (160,000 VND-230,000 VND).

Finally The Spot provides a spread of contemporary fresh spring rolls in what promises to be an expanding range of modern Vietnamese tapas, with options including roasted duck, prawn, vegetarian and pho cuon (beef and herbs), ideal for a nibble.
The Spot while located in what is often dismissed as backpacker district has risen the bar in terms of a bistro-bar offering good value, contemporary food and drinks and understated cool.

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