All you can eat Sunday roast dinners with free-flow gin and tonic, Marou Chocolate desserts and one of Vietnam’s best chefs at the helm… oh yes, and a Big Green Egg. Do we have your attention? By Simon Stanley. Photos by Ben Turner.
Reminiscent of the traditional ‘grand cafes’ of bygone Europe, Café-Restaurant Ho Chi Minh City, a recent addition to the Ben Thanh scene, is a grand space indeed. From the marble-topped bar, complete with brass trimmings and beer taps and looking like something plucked from a 19th century Parisian train station, guests are led into a bright and spacious dining room of smoked oak furniture, vintage tiling, contemporary lighting and plenty of nods to the century-old building’s former life.
True to its name, one corner of the room is dedicated to laid-back sofas and armchairs, coffee tables, magazines, chilled out tunes and space for your laptop, your ca phe sua da and a stack of pancakes drizzled in maple syrup. As cafes go, it’s a winner – and affordable too.
In addition to an array of single source coffees from around the globe, tea geeks will be more than happy with the choice of loose-leaf options. From there, a list of juices, shakes, smoothies and soft drinks takes us into the hard stuff.
With Magners cider, Tiger and Saigon’s two favourite P words on tap – Pasteur Street and Platinum – plus a concise list of wines and bubbles, top-notch spirits and top-notch cocktails, Café-Restaurant is worth the trip for liquid nourishment alone. One look at the food, however, and you’ll probably want to stay.
“Our style is Northern European,” says general manager and partner Sander Smits. “We’ve stolen something from several countries – the dishes that we’re most passionate about.” Combining the Dutch DNA of its founders with executive chef (and Top Chef Vietnam finalist) Steven Long’s culinary flair, two worlds have combined to create a menu that’s both varied and unique. Starting with a dozen healthy breakfast options (served until 5pm), you’ll also find salads, homemade soups, Dutch-style sandwiches, grilled meats (courtesy of The Meatworks) and pastas. With a kids’ menu too, there’s something here for everyone.
But today is Sunday. It’s just after midday and my tasting team and I have skipped breakfast, unbuckled our belts and tucked our napkins into our collars. Bring on the ‘Grand Sunday Roast’.
Served from 11am until 5pm every Sunday, it is, quite simply, superb, and as long as you keep eating it, they’ll keep bringing it. Tender lamb, blushed pink beef, roasted fish, beer-can roast chicken, pork rib, creamy mash, roasted veg, fresh salad and a dessert. At just VND 400,000, it’s a bargain, plus, under 12s eat free. Pay another 400k and yes, you can have as many gin and tonics (or Bloody Maries) as you want. As for the Big Green Egg, well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself, but if you’re a fan of barbecued meats, you’re in for a treat.