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Ngõ Nooks: De Tam Café Adds a Contemporary Touch to a Familiar Retro Aesthetic

As soon as you walk into De Tam’s leafy entrance courtyard, a familiar vintage theme becomes apparent. An entire wall is covered in shelves containing over 100 film cameras and lenses, while record players and old radios adorn almost every table inside. Yet the stylish, at times contemporary, approach to décor prevents this new haunt from feeling like another contrived addition to an already over-saturated aesthetic.  

Soothing jazz covers of pop songs play on repeat throughout the villa, where the style continues: paperbacks on every table, vintage bikes on the stairs, half-sanded wooden doors and even plants in the bathtub, yet the cafe manages to pull it off with elegance and flair.

On an upstairs balcony, vines cascade down from upper floors and frame the view of Yen The, the short street that houses the café. Inside, twenty-somethings patter away on Macs or sip coffee made using Arabica beans grown in Da Lat.

With petals resting on frothy steamed milk, their rose latte is particularly easy on the eye, although the occasional mouthful of flowers does little to aid the palate. The coffee isn’t too strong, either, which is perhaps appropriate for somewhere so relaxing. This is a place to escape the everyday buzz of Hanoi, not be reminded of it by a coffee so strong it practically grabs you.

There are so many spacious, private corners dotted with studious visitors that I feel the slacker’s instant jealousy of other’s apparent productivity. It also strikes me as a great space for collaborative work and small arts events. In fact, the café hosted a photography and camera fair to raise money for Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in October.

I order a snack (or 'sweeties' as they’re called on the menu). I’m a fan of good value, although my friends call it “being tight.” Their croissant felt like a push at VND45,000, although I was fairly confident the sumptuousness of the banachoco crêpe or the oatmeal and raisin cookies would outweigh the anguish I felt after paying relatively high amounts for small portions.

Yet I was distracted by the arrival of the café manager, Quang Huy, who offered a pot of Gryphon Tea from Singapore. I was attracted to the most provocatively named of the signature range — Nymph of the Nile. The tea was fantastic. Combining hints of white flower and rose with a sweet peach finish, this was one of the finest hot drinks to ever pass my lips. It was also complemented by dried salted mango and palette-cleansing slices of ginger.

The clear glass teapot was gently heated by candlelight and surrounded by multi-colored fruits, along with visually pleasing, yet impractical, rotund sipping bowls. Together, it made up the tray to end all other Instagrammable café trays.

It is evident from every facet of De Tam that presentation is paramount. Huy, however, shared that they do not want the aesthetic attraction to affect the atmosphere, especially when it comes to professional photographers.

“We had to start charging for photo shoots”, he said. “Because we want to keep it relaxed. We don’t want people walking around to every corner and disturbing everyone.”

“We just want to make people feel at home,” he added. “And in fact, everything here like the old TV sets, record players and the cameras — they are all from the owner’s private collection and they are in full use, they still work.”

This pristine and stylishly decorated French villa isn’t what I’d normally consider homely, but I’d certainly consider making it my home for a day and bringing a novel to delve into on the balcony.

A printed quote on my table read: “Life is to be enjoyed, not endured.” And if you find yourself in De Tam, I’m sure you’ll end up doing the former.

You can find De Tam at 33 Yen The. They are open from 8am-2am.


To sum up: 

Taste - 4/5

Price - 3/5

Atmosphere - 5/5

Friendliness - 4/5

Location - 5/5 

De Tam Cafe

33 Yen The, Dong Da, Hanoi


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