It’s hard to do contemporary well in Hoi An, as the seventeenth century central region UNESCO recognized world heritage site positively reeks of the good old days, with schoolgirls floating by in white traditional ao dai on bicycles, merry jewel coloured lanterns hanging from roof eaves, and obligatory bas (grandmothers) hawking fruit from backbreaking carrying poles or selling local street food specialities worth dying for.
But Q Bar in Hoi An, the younger offspring of the hyper-fashionable Saigon branch has brought its good looks and metropolitan élan to town. Situated on Nguyen Thai Hoc street in an old merchant townhouse, Q Bar manages to preserve the tranquility of the old with the cutting edge of the new.
Soothing LED lighting bathes the interior in luscious reds, greens and pinks to a chillout soundtrack. Being hip has never been so relaxing. The contrast of concrete industrial floor with the traditional blackened wood of the old house pays a fitting tribute to the tension between past and present. There’s even a hint to Hoi An’s Japanese history with a minimalist long shared bench and table in light wood that occupies the alcove nearest the Spartan courtyard. Yes, it’s simple in its aesthetics, but little details tantalize the eyes – Hue imperial styled silk fabrics adorn the cushions, splendid with their twirling dragons, giant exotic seed pods stand as table ornaments and glass containers sit packed densely with brightly coloured flowers, lightening the otherwise sharp styling with a warmer natural touch. The flamboyantly red-lit metal coated bar stands in the shadow an aerial barrage balloon collection of red lanterns, hovering above like a brewing storm.
Service suits the ambience, pleasant, calm and polite; but of course, such a place comes with a price-tag, with mixed drinks such as vodka tonic a cool 85,000VND and margaritas 95,000 VND.
While Q Bar in Ho Chi Minh City can rely on a bevy of the beautiful people to keep the place lively, I wonder whether its younger cousin will prove as successful in hitting the right vibe, on the night I visited, the bar-goers were middle aged well-to-do tourists dressed in slacks and tucked in shirts looking for a early evening tipple and it remains to be seen if the Hoi An branch can capture a regular clientele that are willing to pay that little bit extra for what is in effect an international standard bar in a sleepy Vietnamese town.
Q Bar – Lounge
94 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An
The review was published in Pathfinder in the march issue.