Creative drinks amid decadent surroundings are on offer at Qui, a fashionable new dining lounge in Ho Chi Minh City. By Simon Stanley. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Qui’s opulent frontage is hard to miss as you cruise along Le Thanh Ton. Dripping in sepia light from those funky vintage lightbulbs we now know and love, with golden accents laid upon sensuous black, bold urban artwork and a long marble bar, it has certainly caught the attention of Saigon’s fashionistas since opening in May 2016. But as I take a seat at the bar, I feel surprisingly at ease. The smiles are genuine and within seconds the barman has introduced himself and begins whipping up my drink. “Give me whatever’s good,” I’d said, although having now browsed the cocktail menu, it seems I’d be happy with just about everything.
Aside from a strong selection of beers, wines and soft drinks, plus teas and coffees, Qui is all about the mixology. Bar manager Le Thanh Tung is a veteran of Saigon’s high-end cocktail scene, having won Vietnam’s bartender of the year award at the 2014 Diageo Reserve World Class mixology competition. You know you’re in good hands.
Even the classic cocktails have a layer of history and nostalgia behind them, all priced at between VND160,000 and VND210,000. Starting right back at the beginning, with the 1860s Knickerbocker, through the 1900s, the 20s and 30s, we come to the 1980s and today, to the Old Cuban, blending Brugal 1888 rum with lime, sugar syrup, mint leaves, bitters and champagne.
Signature cocktails are priced from VND190,000—for the Around the World, as good a place to start as any—to VND240,00 for the Sea Freeze, a heady mix of tequila, sake, wasabi and green tea shrub, pistachio syrup, coconut, and passion fruit, all served inside a real shell. Presentation is also quite remarkable, with the mixologists taking as much care over the look of their drinks as they do the taste. There’s even a strong lineup of barrel-aged cocktails and, for the party goers, large sharing bowls (VND650,000 to VND750,000).
For those who prefer a simple life, the pages beyond read like an almanac of the world’s finest spirits, boasting 16 Scotch whiskies, six bourbons, 10 rums, and an astounding 13 styles of gin and tonic, to name just a few.
A full food menu is available, although the bar snacks make for ideal after-work grazing. During the 5.30 to 7.30pm happy hours, these are offered alongside select beers, wines and cocktails, with everything priced at VND99,000++.
Music is a chilled mix of bass-driven house, with live DJs performing every night from 9 o’clock. Finally, as a 100 percent cigarette-friendly establishment, expect a twist of smoke as an accompaniment to your drinks, but after two or three strong ones you may not care.