Barbara Adam discovers a botanical fairytale serving up healthy home-cooking at Padma De Fleur. Photos by Angeli Castillo.

Down a wide alley in the backblocks of District 1 there is a floral dreamland of tranquility and home-cooked Vietnamese food It’s staffed by florists and designers with no training in hospitality, yet it’s one of the most hospitable places in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s basically a friendly cafe inside a florist shop.

Padma de Fleur has a resident chef, who visits a local market every morning to select fresh and healthy seasonal ingredients. The chef’s task is to prepare a beautiful meal that looks as good as it tastes.

Owner Pham Thi Quynh Anh, known to her friends as QA, expects her guests to relax and enjoy their dining experience. Because Padma de Fleur is all about appreciating beauty in all its forms.

“We created this space so we could stay here and work for 12 hours without feeling like we’re in an office,” QA said. “We want to get up in the morning to go to work, and we like to have a relaxing and quiet place right in the centre of town.

The original Padma de Fleur experience is the set lunch for VND150,000. For this you receive four beautifully-decorated dishes: one meat dish, one vegetable dish, a soup and a little dessert. It’s an artistic take on the com trua van phong (office lunch) that’s popular with office workers all over the city.

For obvious reasons, booking ahead is advised.

Padma de Fleur recently expanded, opening two new seating areas and adding dinner and cocktails to its playlist.

The new dinner menu is compact, just five choices (which change daily), all designed for sharing, with fresh ingredients bought and cooked the very day you dine. The dishes range in price from VND120,000 to VND220,000.

QA also enlisted the assistance of bartender Nguyen Nghia to develop a range of cocktails that suit Padma de Fleur’s whimsical decor, fresh healthy menu and the new rooftop “hanging garden” area, the perfect location for sunset drinks.

Nghia created three signature cocktails, the Padma de Fleur, Ms Sugarcane and Cactus, all available after 5pm for VND230,000. A selection of classic cocktails are also available for VND190,000.

The Padma de Fleur is a refreshing combination of tart, creamy and floral notes, consisting of lotus tea-infused vodka, pandan syrup, Moroccan gin, calamansi and lemon juice and egg whites, garnished with lotus petals and pumpkin bubbles.

Like everything here, the cocktails arrive on a tray stunningly decorated with flowers.

Padma de Fleur has had several evolutions over the last ten years. QA abandoned her first attempt at running a florist shop after only a few years, and returned to the corporate world. In 2011, she tried again, moving to the current location three years ago.

At every stage, the focus was on running a floristry business. But QA also wanted a break from the tedium of deciding what to eat, so she hired a cook to prepare a freshly-cooked lunch every day.

Soon, QA was serving family and friends as well as staff. So she thought “why not make this lunch caper a going concern?”

Lucky for us she did!

55/6 Le Thi Hong Gam, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open Tuesday – Sunday 9am – 10pm
www.facebook.com/padma.de.fleur