Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dine like royalty in ancient Hue luxury

Dine like royalty in ancient Hue luxury
Quoc Dat shrugs off his concerns about fine dining and heads out for a celebratory night on the town at a fancy restaurant that makes you feel right at home. Who said the feeling of not belonging to a place has to be bad? I definitely didn’t feel at home in this place, but that’s that best [...]

Quoc Dat shrugs off his concerns about fine dining and heads out for a celebratory night on the town at a fancy restaurant that makes you feel right at home.

Who said the feeling of not belonging to a place has to be bad?

I definitely didn’t feel at home in this place, but that’s that best part. Now here’s why.

I was never a fancy person. I didn’t wear fancy clothes. I didn’t have a fancy ride. I didn’t hang out at fancy places. And I especially didn’t dine at fancy restaurants.

But I was never one to refuse a treat. I mean, who can, really?

So, with all the treats I’ve received in life, I’ve had quite a few fancy experiences. The only problem was, I never felt at ease.

Just last month, a friend of mine took me to the opening of this new bar. Everything was really nice, except for the fact that I felt totally under-dressed. I threw myself into a corner of the bar for the entire night.

Learning my lesson, I tried very hard to over-dress my usual self for a birthday bash for a baby, the first child of a filthy rich couple who happened to be my high-school mates. This time everything was fine, except the price was absolutely over the top. I thought the whole party was a massive rip-off, and I felt very bad for the couple, even though I knew they wouldn’t mind paying for a party ten times bigger.

So when a very close friend rings me up and tells me she is going to treat me to dinner because she’s just got promoted to PR Manager of a big media and event company – possibly the only job in town that is still paying during this economic downturn, which is good for her – I am on full alarm.

“It’s very special,” she says. Now that freaks me out.

What is the place like? How fancy is it? How should I dress myself appropriately? After all, I don’t want to embarrass my friend – the new power girl in town.

But the moment I arrive at the place, I immediately know all the preparation was unnecessary. Or at least I guess, because from the very first sight, it looks just like home.

The restaurant is set in a newly renovated French-style three-storey house, which I heard was built in the late 19th century. It has an open rooftop and double staircases that lead to the first floor. It is basic, with beige paint on the front, but very classic and beautiful. The beauty lies in the simplicity, and the odd feeling only an old-style building, a classic taste of architectural art, could bring about in the middle of a busy and modern street.

I am a little surprised as I step inside. From the exterior of the building, I’d expected something very European, like a French dining room. Instead, it is a large room with a combination of different styles. It is more like a combination living room/dining room, with comfortable couches and tea tables in between dining tables and chairs. The furniture is classic European style, but the other decor— shelves holding antique chinaware, lanterns and lamps, and even the curtains— are traditional Hue Royal style. The combination of East and West sounds like a funny mess, but I later learn, it is the Indochina style, something only found during the French colonisation of Viet Nam.

I am later told that a lot of thought has gone into these small decorative touches. All the silk lamps and lanterns are hand-embroidered. The antique chinaware comes from the owner’s own collection, and they are worth more than the entire restaurant. No wonder these small details are amazing.

But what I find even more amazing is, although the place looks totally luxurious, I feel absolutely comfortable, no matter where I sit in the room. It is not only because the furniture was comfortable, but also because the atmosphere is relaxing, warm and cosy. It feel like I am sitting in my own dream living-plus-dining room. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like an outsider in a high-end place.

We finally settle down in the upstairs room, where there is more light coming through the windows. There is also a small stage at one end of the room, which, according to the manager, is a copy of the Royal Stage in Hue’s Forbidden Palace. We are a little early for the daily evening show of Vietnamese traditional music, but I heard that all kinds of traditional music and performances are available upon request.

Even the food is made in the Indochina style. There is a Vietnamese menu and a Western one. So my friend and I order from both. We find that the Vietnamese food tastes a little westernised and the Western food tastes a little Vietnamese. It’s all about cultural exchange to prevent culture shock nowadays, I guess. Our orders weren’t much different from any other high-end restaurant, except for the fact that it is the first time I ever felt full— really full— on a set menu, in an expensive place.

What really impresses me, and contributes to the fact that I don’t feel out of place, is the service. The waiters and waitresses look me in the eye and treat me so well that, for once, I completely forget I have never been a part of the luxury world.

The whole concept, as the manager told me, is to make customers feel like royalty the moment they step in through the door.

Despite the strangeness of this idea, I decide I don’t mind. And, by the time we left, I hope that another friend will be promoted soon.

Ly Club

Add: 4 Le Phung Hieu St.

Tel: 04. 3936 3069

Price: from VND300,000

Hour: 11am-11pm

Comment: Fancy yet cosy restaurant, Indochina style

Source: Vietnam News

Posted in Hanoi, Reviews, Vietnamese Food Tagged: food, Hanoi, Restaurant, Review, Vietnam

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