Peter Cornish checks out a chilled new cocktail joint on Bui Vien Street. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
The recent weekend pedestrianisation of Bui Vien has done plenty to change the vibe of the street, bringing in people who would otherwise avoid it.
And as the street becomes more prosperous, business owners are upping their game to cater for the influx of new visitors, many of whom have more money in their pocket than those of yesteryear.
New to the block is The Crib, proudly boasting some of the best cocktails in town and at VND170,000 a pop for their signature drinks they are certainly priced more in line with other parts of District 1 than what we’ve come to expect from Bui Vien.
But when we visited on a Saturday afternoon, the bar was heaving, proving that the street is no longer the refuge of skint travellers searching for a VND12,000 Saigon Green.
The Crib is a small bar, tucked away on the first floor above the popular kebab shop Gotcha and next door to the infamous den of iniquity GO2.
The upper floors of the building house accommodation so there’s a steady stream of guests coming in and out, many of whom stop for a drink before heading out to explore the action below.
Owner Alistair Shiells and his wife Ha set out to create a cool, welcoming vibe with a strict ‘no gangsters’ policy, and enlisted the help of an artist friend to guide them in the design of their bar.
The result is crisp modern design with white walls, bamboo sectioning and some fine examples of ethnic art covering the walls.
An open front to the bar provides a great spot to people watch without the unwelcome intrusions of sitting street side.
The signature cocktails draw inspiration from Vietnamese culture and locations and were designed by an award-winning mixologist especially for the bar.
Using local ingredients and flavours to create deliciously unique and refreshing drinks, served in traditional ceramic and clay pots, they have names like Hmong sister (bourbon, palm sugar, apple and lime juice) and ngheu hap xa (vodka, lemongrass syrup, lychee, ginger and basil) and the old Bui Vien (single malt whiskey, fresh ginger, rosemary, lime juice and angostura bitters).
The Crib also servers a good selection of bar snacks including lime sauce chicken wings (VND120,000), BBQ pork ribs (VND250,000) and smoked honey chicken (VND380,000) with Monday Crib Meals offering a free beer with each main.
A daily happy hour runs from 3pm till 6pm with Tiger draft just VND29,000 and 20% off all cocktails and Jack & Jill Thursday offers 30% of wine and spirits all day.
Live music from 4pm till 6pm at the weekend.