Viet Nam News
By Edward Dalton
Social enterprises are few and far between in a city where people are usually too busy trying to improve their own lots in life. At Maison de Têt Décor, however, helping out the less fortunate people in society is at the centre of the whole operation.
Situated in a stunning colonial villa with several balconies overlooking West Lake, the location alone makes it worth a visit. Factor in the artisanal coffee, an exhaustive menu of Western and Vietnamese dishes, homemade cakes and a policy of recruiting workers from heavily disadvantaged backgrounds, and the whole package becomes a unique one indeed.
West Lake view: One of the three lakeside balconies.
From the street, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was someone’s house - which is half true, because it used to be. Despite its conversion into a thriving business, the interior has kept all of the warmth and cosiness from its days as a family home.
Upstairs, diners sit on handcrafted wooden furniture in spacious tiled rooms. Cushions are scattered around which bear patterns made famous by some of Việt Nam’s ethnic minorities, and the wall decorations and statues are all made especially for this restaurant.
It’s the perfect place to sit and enjoy a coffee, of which there are eight blends to choose from. With beans sourced locally and from abroad, including Africa, India, Indonesia and South America, there is surely a blend to suit every taste.
I tried the Heaven blend latte (VNĐ65,000) and can happily report it was appropriately named. It’s difficult to recall ever savouring a more silky smooth coffee; it tasted faintly bitter with undertones of caramel and chocolate.
Homely experience: Warm interior with specially crafted furniture.
The waitress who brought my coffee, Nguyễn Thị Thuý, graduated from the Know One Teach One (KOTO) foundation seven years ago. KOTO has a long history of training young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, so it’s no surprise that many of Maison de Têt Décor’s current and former staff came through that route.
Since leaving KOTO, Thuý has worked for a few different restaurants, and tells me how grateful she is for the opportunity to learn so many new skills. She recently achieved her goal of an IELTs score of 5.5, which gives her the chance to fulfil her dream of studying for a hospitality diploma in Melbourne, Australia.
These days, Maison de Têt Décor has such a vast network of employees, past and present, that they have no trouble finding staff without KOTO - always favouring those with no formal education, or those burdened by vulnerability. Despite how busy the restaurant may seem helping people in Hà Nội, the operation extends far beyond what is visible. It helps support two schools in Sa Pa, which jointly deliver education to about 350 kids from ethnic minorities every year.
The chat was interrupted by the arrival of lunch: a half soup and half sandwich combo meal (VNĐ190,000). Despite a large selection of delicious sounding sandwiches, salads and burgers, the mix and match option sounded just right. For the soup, the swelteringly hot temperature was calling out to be subdued by a chilled gazpacho. It was light and refreshing, thanks to the coconut water and cucumber, with a delicate tang coming from the bell peppers and not overly-sweet tomatoes.
For the sandwich, I opted for herbed chicken breast schnitzel, packed between lightly toasted and thickly sliced whole wheat bread and kept company by crunchy apple slaw and light mayo. If the soup was light and delicate, the sandwich was the opposite. Despite only being one half, it was deeply filling, and best enjoyed by taking huge, clumsy bites to ensure all the ingredients were enjoyed with each mouthful.
To wash it all down and alleviate my guilt courtesy of the cake to come, a healthy juice drink was needed. The red rocket (VNĐ70,000) mixes beetroot, carrot, apple and mint to create a slightly peppery but undeniably refreshing drink. For the most health conscious, they even offer an organic Juice Cleanse Program, with seven varieties of detoxifying juices available to be delivered to your home over three-, five- or seven-day programs.
The cakes at Maison de Têt Décor are all homemade, and usually include half a dozen gluten-free options, including gluten-free banana and chocolate bread (VNĐ80,000). Gluten is no problem for me, so I ordered a slice of old-fashioned carrot cake (VNĐ80,000). Suitably moist and layered with zesty yoghurt cream cheese frosting, it was the perfect end to the meal.
With 12 pages of food and drinks to choose from, including a Vietnamese dinner menu served after 6pm, I challenge anyone to visit Maison de Têt Décor and leave without a full stomach and smiling face.
Name: Maison de Têt Décor
Address: 156 Từ Hoa, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội
Telephone: 0966 611383 (English) 0438 239722 (Vietnamese)
Bookings / Delivery: Yes (Mon-Fri anytime, Sat-Sun dinner only) / Yes (Juice Cleanse Program only)
Comments: A socially enterprising café and restaurant situated in a beautiful French villa overlooking West Lake. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily between 7am and 10pm. Boasts a large selection of high quality coffees and a wide variety of gluten-free products. For more information, visit www.tet-lifestyle-collection.com.