After having chosen a suitable pillow from the extensive pillow menu at the Westlake Intercontinental, I was tucked up in bed, researching best food experiences in the Hanoi Old Quarter. I searched blog after blog and two names kept popping up, No 49 Bat Dan Street, for the best pho and Cafe Pho Co for raw egg coffee.
“Al, we’re having pho for breakfast followed by raw egg coffee”.
I had read that 49 Bat Dan Street is so popular with the locals, it often sells out by 11am, so bright and early we were in a taxi and on our way.
Bat Dan Street is the street to go to for pho (ha, what a funny sentence). Pho bo (beef meatballs), pho tai (beef fillet) or pho ga (chicken) is pretty much sold in every eating house in this street so I’m pretty sure they would all be good, but I specifically wanted to try No 49.
It was busy when we arrived but we quickly ordered the most expensive pho on the three item menu (approx $2.50 AUD per serve). Chef had an efficient system going so we waited for no more than a minute before being presented with steaming hot bowls of broth, beef and noddles. We found two seats at a little wooden table in the back corner and settled down to enjoy the reward.
The pho was fragrant and full of flavour. The meat tender, the noodles silky. You could taste a depth of flavour that I’d found to be missing in many of the other pho dishes I’d tried. Hearty and satisfying, I understand why it’s a favourite breakfast dish and why number 49 is so popular. A few days later, we walked past at midday and the shop was closed. They were prepping the master broth for the next day’s serve.
Raw egg coffee and coffee with yoghurt, certainly not my first choices, but I was so intrigued I had to search out Cafe Pho Co in Hang Gai Street. You’d never find this place if you weren’t specifically looking. It would be so easy to walk straight past but it’s a hidden gem.
You enter through a long dark hallway into a flora-filled courtyard where you are greeted by a waitress and given a menu (drinks only). You order and then make your way up the stairs, many stairs, including a spiral staircase, where you arrive at an outdoor terrace overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. I suspect one of the best views in Hanoi.
Raw egg coffee (ca phe trung) is extraordinary, kinda like tiramisu in a glass. We opted for cold but apparently it’s also great hot.
Yoghurt coffee (ca phe sua chua) is equally delicious, a sweet but tangy combination of coffee, plain yoghurt and chocolate drinking powder (the menu said milo) but it definitely wasn’t milo.
We didn’t find Cafe Pho Co until our last full day in Hanoi otherwise we would have visited several times to try all of the hot and cold options.
Still feeling peckish, buy some of these fresh donut pastries from one of the many street vendors and go sit on a bench at Hoan Kiem Lake to people watch. Chewy, crispy, sweet, not so sweet, they’ll hit the spot.
Amazing pho: No 49, Bat Dan Street, Hanoi
Not your usual cup of coffee: Cafe Pho Co, 11P Hang Gai Street, Hanoi