This trip to Vietnam was only a flying visit for 4 days , basically to have a little look around Hanoi , relax , eat and weigh myself down with a travel bag crammed to the max with Coffee beans. Hanoi is the city to head to for lovers of Coffee and Cafe culture and also some of the healthiest food in Asia …far too healthy for my liking. I stayed in Hoan Kiem which is the historical part of the city , the old quarter so there`s quite a bit of character there.
I normally try my hardest to steer well clear of backpackers during my travels but this area was teeming with them , all looking for the cheapest beds , cheapest beer and the cheapest way to feed themselves.I prefer to avoid them like the plague and stick with the locals.
My hotel was called “Essence” and it came up as the number one visitors choice on tripadvisor , housed a very good restaurant and was available at a really good price. I booked in for 4 nights and i went for a “suite” that cost me £49 per night….amazing price , prime location in the heart of the city. The staff at the hotel were the friendliest in all of my years travelling.
I searched around for the best place to eat in Hanoi city and a lot of the reports pointed to “La Verticale” , a French restaurant with Vietnamese influences. The chef here was a Frenchman called Didier Corlou and with umpteen years of cooking under his belt and a bit of a well known celeb chef in the city it made sense to book in for his tasting menu. Chef Corlou has cooked for Presidents , Celebrities and Kings over the years and is currently based in Hanoi with his Asian wife.
Examples of Corlou`s Classic East meets West styling shine through in dishes on tonights menu such as the Duck Foie gras with Lemongrass , Vietnamese spring roll with Black Truffle and Pork nougat with Caramelised cream and young Vietnamese Rice. Corlou practised his traditional French cuisine but also played with strong Asian influences. New spices that i`d never heard of were incorporated into sauces and rubs . Wild Pepper , Salt flower seed , Caviar from the garden (salted coriander seeds ) and Ambrette seed were all used to contribute their unique flavours to the new cuisine of Hanoi. There are two ranges of spices at La Verticale. The first are spices usually used in daily Vietnamese cuisine (cinnamon, Nuoc mam, Star anise, Turmeric, Ginger ). The second range are rare spices that come from remote regions, mountains or from the minorities.( Wild Pepper , Pollen from the Forests , Salt flower seed )
LA VERTICALE – DIDIER CORLOU`S SIX SERVICES MENU – £40
A little starter to amuse – 5 flavours of Asia.
Artichoke , Clams, scallop in seaweed nectar, flying fish compote, Breton sprit .
Check this one out….From the side it looks pretty normal. However from above it looks entirely different….Could it be my mind or was the oriental Banana playing tricks ?
Foie gras of Mulard Duck with green tea, Pho stock, egg, bitter cacao powder
A classic of Vietnam is the “Pho” soup. This version contained poached Foie gras.
Lobster from Nha Trang rhubarb candied in orange juice, Indochina vanilla and bisque .
Tamarind Sorbet as a palate refresher course.
Muscovy duck with 5 flavours – Lemongrass , Ginger, Honey with seasonal fresh fruits, candied wing, Cinnamon and Basil
Seasonal red fruits In lime freshness, soft cake, black sesame, peppery red fruits jelly
Chocolate “Grand Cru Valhrona” Half cooked, recipe of my mother, Cassia cinnamon ice cream
The Turtle Pagoda on Hoan Kiem lake.
Hoan Kiem district at 6am , virtually deserted and then again at 6pm ….A backpackers heaven.
Huong Mai Coffee shop on Hang Manh street in the Hoan Kiem area. This is one of the premier Coffee shops in Hanoi. As you can see , they stock everything here and I ended up spending a small fortune on Blue mountain beans and the traditional Indonesian Organic Kopi Luwak .( better known as Cat Shit Coffee )
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Such a shame I didn’t see this post a week ago. An Aussie couple we met in Halong Bay talked us into going to the Press Club for dinner, whereas we had been contemplating La Verticale. It was a disaster. Loved Hanoi though. Eating on the street and the coffee/cafe culture was amazing. We stayed in the Essence too – as you say amazing value, and what a relief it was to enter the oasis of calm after experiencing the madness of the old quarter.