Tuan Phan gets his Game of Thrones on at one of the city’s newest cocktail bars. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Though it bears no connection to the famed Iron Bank of Braavos of the Game of Thrones, Iron Bank: the Cocktail Vault has much of the medieval aesthetics and cavernous stone interior one is familiar with from the popular television series. One enters the space by way of a heavy black metal vault door.
The bar has a warm interior, with stucco wall and thick wooden beams that hold up another small room for seating upstairs.
Melted candles with long threads of dripping wax adorn the walls in the dimly-lit burnished bronze interior. The decor is a cozy dedication to mellow drinking, with a gently under-lit round bar and leather backed stools at its center.
The Iron Vault is proprietor Lena Huynh’s first bar in Ho Chi Minh City. Having “thought first about opening a craft beer spot”, she found the city oversaturated and decided to look at the burgeoning, but still in its infancy, mixology cocktail scene instead. Now, with Snuffbox in the street running parallel to it, these two speakeasies branching off Ham Nghi are forming a nondescript mixologist hideaway in the banking district. Judging by the overall friendliness of the service, the quality of the drinks, and inviting decor, the Iron Bank is a place I’d enjoy doing business with.
The drinking menu is split into two categories: “Old Money”, for the classic Old Fashioned and Manhattan drinkers, and “New Money”, for those wanting to try their signature concoctions.
I ordered a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, and found both well balanced and lovely. On the signature menu, the Tropic Fire is the flashiest, a Brugal Rum-based concoction with a burning floating ice cube.
For my money, though, the Devil’s Garden is the best drink on the signature list. It combines vodka and sake in a smooth, rich amber distillate with egg white.
The sweetness of the drink is not cloying and is balanced well with shaved strings of red togaroshi peppers from Japan to give it a dollop of spiciness. Set on a solid false gold tray, it’s decadent and richly decorative, fitting for such a bar. I would make repeat withdrawals of such a drink.
The Iron Bank is situated in the bank quarter of the city, which explains the name, surrounded by both state banks and international enterprises. Here’s to hoping it draws just enough of a work crowd after hours to keep it humming with visitors, but not too much so that it can remain a cozy and intimate spot to engage in the art and commerce of good, friendly drinking.