By Hà Nguyễn
Tourists and locals alike are familiar with famously beautiful spots in Hà Nội such as Hòan Kiếm Lake and the Old Quarter, but less familiar is the gorgeous Lý Club restaurant.
The restaurant is named after the Lý Dynasty that began in the 11th century, an era that featured a thriving ceramic trade, fine arts and daisy patterns, so Lý Club took the daisy flower as its logo.
An overview of the new Lý Club which was built in the early 19th century. Photo by Hải Nam
The restaurant is located in a French-style villa and surrounded by trees and colourful flowers.
As well as the enchanting exterior, the decor inside features ceramic flower pots, beautiful paintings and a modern setting. There are also luxury rooms available for large parties.
LUXURIOUS: The luxury dining rooms inside the villa make for beautiful and comfortable places to eat. Photos courtesy of Hải Nam/Lý Club
Most impressive though is the five-seat room for private meetings on the second floor, allowing diners to enjoy the peaceful Lê Phụng Hiểu Street and the beauty around the villa with the flowers hanging on magnolia trees. Next to this room is a smaller one filled with wine bottles from around the world.
"There is also a small stage in the outside area where local and western music is played every night," said restaurant sales manager Đỗ Minh Hằng.
DIG IN: Bò nướng ống tre (grilled beef in bamboo) is among the best dishes on offer at Lý Club.
Hằng asked us whether we wanted to sit in the main part of the villa or a more private room. We, although liked both places, chose a table outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery around us while waiting for our food.
Hằng said the restaurant served Vietnamese and European dishes and indeed, the extensive menu featured hundreds of dishes. After some humming and hawing, we decided to try the black chicken soup in coconut (VNĐ175,000).
The manager said the dish was one of the tastiest and most nutritious on offer at Lý Club and was cooked by both head chefs from Hà Nội and HCM City.
We were so excited that when the server brought it to us, we couldn't wait for our other dishes to dig in. We enjoyed the dish for its pure, hot and sweet broth with soft black chicken pieces and various aromatic ingredients such as ginseng accompanied with traditional medicinal herbs in the coconut.
Gỏi cổ hũ dừa tôm thịt (coconut core salad with pork and shrimp) is a delight.
“The soup helps not only cool down the heat from inside the body but also increase nutrition for health, particularly for children and the elderly,” said Hằng.
When the next dish gỏi hũ dừa tôm thịt (coconut core salad with pork and shrimp, VNĐ290,000) came, we were so impressed by the presentation that we didn't dare eat it until a server came to help mix the ingredients and told us it was best eaten with prawn crackers.
“We order the coconut core from Bến Tre, a home of coconut in Việt Nam. The core can be found at the top of coconut trees, hidden inside the branches. The core is covered by a thin layer of capsules, it is sweet, fresh, cool and nutritious, especially with minerals and it is very good for the digestive system,” the server said.
I was so interested in the salad because the coconut core was fresh and crispy, mixed with sour pork, shrimp and roasted peanuts.
I asked the server to bring one more dish for us but she said there were still several to come such as sò điệp chiên lê táo (fried scallop with apple and pear, VNĐ290,000), bò nướng ống tre (grilled beef in bamboo, VNĐ295,000), cá hồi nướng sốt chanh leo (salmon fillet baked in banana leaf with passion fruit sauce, served with baked parmesan potato cake, VNĐ395,000) and cải thìa xào tỏi (bok choy halved and lightly sautéed with garlic, VNĐ100,000).
All the dishes were enjoyable. The beef in bamboo had a mixed flavour between Asian and European, while the salmon baked in banana leaf was fragrant with a buttery flavour and the bok choy was fresh and soft.
While we were waiting for our dessert, a group of young Vietnamese people arrived. Like us, they chose a large table outside with a sofa.
“We like to come here because apart from the tasty dishes we can enjoy the fresh air and green trees. There are very few places in the crowded city that have such a calm space suitable for friend or business meetings,” a man (who wished to remain anonymous) from the group said.
The server next brought us our dessert known as chè chôm chôm (rambutan sweet, VNĐ115,000). Although we had never eaten this pudding before, we still liked it so much for its lightly sour, sweet and fragrant flavour.
For a quality meal in a beautiful setting, I highly recommend Lý Club. VNS