Hanoi Social Club, hidden away in the Old Quarter, opened its doors in the summer of 2011 and has barely put a foot wrong since. Ambience is king here, and it often feels like you are sitting in the living room of an old friend with particularly good taste: hand-made wooden tables, shelves adorned with books, plants, modern artwork. There is seating on the first and second floor and a couple tables outside on the tiniest of patios. Everything here seems just right, without ever feeling artfully contrived.
Owner John Kis wanted to make it cozy from the beginning and told Chào that he was partly inspired by Danish concept of hygge, which loosely translates to a warm feeling of comfort and conviviality. If this is what Kis was going for he has nailed it, though a key reason for him opening the venue was simply to eat the type of food he could not find easily in Hanoi.
“I wanted to eat a good brunch! Yes, actually true – this life decision was partly based on my stomach,” Kis says. “There were actually zero options for casual brunch at the time, so as well as satisfying my own urge it seemed like a no-brainer business idea. I work off the assumption that if I’m complaining about something then a lot of other people must be too.”
Places of rustic beauty that manage to create such a warm atmosphere do not always give full effort when it comes to the food, but that is not the case here, the chic restaurant offering a fantastic menu of well-thought out dishes (breakfast, lunch and dinner), with equal attention paid to both meat, vegetarian and vegan diners. Even the pork scratchings here are a work of gastronomic beauty. Hot and crisp, with large portions to boot.
There is no one particular cuisine served, the menu instead gently globetrotting across several different genres. “It’s soul-food. It’s not defined by cuisine. We’ve got everything from a killer laksa (Malaysian) to Hungarian goulash (my grandma’s recipe), and a range of brunch items involving eggs and sourdough rye,” Kis says.
Enjoy the fantastic vegan lasagna for 120,000 VND, the veggie burger with a side of polenta fries for 130,000 VND, the falafel sandwich for 115,000 VND, or one of four fresh salads (100,000-130,000) including quinoa and grilled zucchini. Although vegetarian friendly, Hanoi Social Club does not skimp on the meat, the menu including dishes such as Moroccan chicken with chickpeas (150,000 VND) and an excellent hamburger (145,000 VND). If you are looking for a hearty breakfast try the potato fritters and chorizo for 140,000 VND.
The drinks at Hanoi Social Club are on point too. Beyond the standard Saigon and Truc Bach, the restaurant offers Pasteur Street IPA for 85,000 VND, though if beer is not your thing they do many mixed drinks as well as an assortment of good-quality red, white or rose wines.
The cocktails are unique and well-blended often with a local-touch, using many handmade syrups as well as fresh ingredients. Highlights include a blueberry coriander gin & tonic (85,000 VND), a hibiscus punch (90,000 VND) and a pho cocktail (140,000). They also provide an array of non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee (Vietnamese and Italian), slushies and juices ranging from 20,000 to 70,000 VND.
The venue is also something of an art space hosting three regular and highly eclectic music nights: Tiny Music Club (every Tuesday), which focuses on low-key local sounds played under candlelight; Xom Nhac (every second Wednesday) has a more contemporary feel and highlights Hanoi’s underground music scene; and finally a monthly music night that uses traditional ethnic instruments. Musically, Hanoi Social Club offers a bit of something for everyone.
Past performances include Norra Marris, West African Spirit, Shadylanes and Daniel Henneberry. The space provides enough room for a decent crowd, while still maintaining an intimate performance for the audience to enjoy the music up close.
With its beautiful decor, soothing live music and food made with attention to detail, Hanoi Social Club lays strong claim to being one of the finest hang outs in Hanoi. Recommended.
6 Ngõ Hội Vũ, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
8 a.m.-11 p.m.
+84 24 3938 2117