On the corner of Commerce and Galway, right across from the water fountains in Britomart’s Takutai Square, is the stonewalled Cafe Hanoi. The subtlety of the all-white exterior is broken by a grand, but somewhat discreet, crimson wooden door and the red, stenciled Cafe Hanoi. You wouldn't know what you were looking for if you weren't previously told – many thinking the entrance is nothing more than a service entrance to Shaky Isles.
Surprisingly understated, and unfinished, the interior leaves you sore necked as a lot of time is spent marveling at seriously cool rooftop lanterns. Wooden tables are scattered around the industrial interior; open stone pillars with red chairs plotted between them. Designer Nat Cheshire crafted the interior with careful picking, fashioning an archetypal Hanoi street café. The food matches. Chef Jason Van Dorsten crafts cuisine that treads a fine line between outrageously creative, and classic - Vietnamese Street food at its finest. Inspiration proudly drawn from hole-in-the-wall restaurants of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, following a street food style, Jason and co. has done a magnificent job at combining this dining style with the stunning interior.
The menu offers only share plates; my favourite is the Pork Spare Rib. Doused in 5-spice and twice cooked with ginger and sesame, the meltingly smooth pork is something to remember. I would also suggest classic Won Tons, and a gander down their street food menu. I tried the Phar Bo, a classic beef noodle soup in a subtly silky broth, outstanding. With a wine list picked from New Zealand’s elite, Marlborough and Central Otago whites, a Hawkes Bay chardonnay, and a mainly foreign reds list, Cafe Hanoi picks lighter wines to match the fresh flavours Jason has created. Oh, and they have cocktails; flavours harmonizing with the menu. It’s hard to say that the entire gastronomic experience isn't on point, drink included.
Make sure you give their Street Food menu a try
Opening its grand crimson doors to us Monday-Friday from midday, and from 5pm on the weekends, Cafe Hanoi is an inner city gem you cannot ignore when making your way through Auckland’s cuisine. Beautifully crafted, characteristically modernized, yet never straying from classic Hanoi. Cuisine light, but not missing a punch. I would definitely recommend.
All photos credited from Cafe Hanoi here