Peter Cornish checks out Cork and Fork, a stylish new wine bar near Saigon’s backpacker district. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

There’s no shortage of decent beer in town thanks to a thriving craft brew scene, but in reality, there’s a limit to how many pints one can down before starting to feel a little bloated. Conscious of an expanding waistline, we went in search of somewhere chilled and relaxed to enjoy a bottle of red, somewhere that didn’t break the bank, and came across a funky little wine bar down at the bottom end of De Tham.

Opening at the end of last year on a street just starting to build a name for its bars and restaurants, Cork & Fork proprietors Derek Jay and Baptiste Solente have taken a well-calculated plunge setting up shop just a few minutes’ walk from the already popular Whiskey & Wares. Catering for a similarly discerning clientele, they’re upping the game for a part of town normally associated with the sleaziness of Bui Vien.

The modern wine bar is tastefully yet simply decorated, with dark slate walls and ambient lighting offering a non-pretentious setting to share a carafe of wine and a light bite with a romantic partner or a group of friends. Comfortable seating lines the walls with tables that can be re-arranged to offer intimacy or a more social setting. Funky jazz grooves play softly in the background, loud enough o be enjoyed but not intrusive to conversation.

The bar is entered through a small outside area with tables, chairs and ample room for parking, then up a step into a Japanese style garden with an open cooking area to one side, catering for dine-in and take-away customers.

Choose from French fast food standards of crepes or panini (each VND69,000), from the menu on slips of paper left on your table. Starting with a choice of sweet or savoury, move down the menu selecting a base, a choice of meat or vegetable for the main, then top up with more choices of cheese, vegetables, sauces and side salad.

The sweets are ordered similarly, with crepe (VND58,000) or waffle (half VND45,000 / full VND70,000), and a selection of spreads, fruit and extras such as ice cream or chocolate chips. Build a dessert to eat on your own or share with friends. Also on offer is a generous cheese board with freshly baked bread and a fine selection of continental cheeses.

The wines have been carefully selected and are reasonably priced with Australian, French, Italian, Chilean and Argentinian all featured on the list. A small carafe of house red (cabernet or merlot) or white (sauvignon blanc) will set you back VND210,000 with a large one costing VND320,000. Ciders from France and Hanoi are served deliciously cold and there’s a selection of local craft beers for those not bothered about their waist line.

Brunch special on Sundays features all you can drink bloody marys, house wine and mimosas for VND499,000 from 11:30 till 14:40 and the teachers’ brunch on Monday offers mimosa towers and an ala carte menu. Well worth the effort of walking down the hill.

3/2 De Tham, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City