STAR OF THE SHOW: The signature avocado eggs Benedict. Photo C’est bon café
by Hoàng Vân Anh
Different from other popular brunch spots, C’est bon café’s spacious setting is able to cater to many customers while retaining its serenity. Tucked away in a quiet stretch of Tây Hồ Street in Hà Nội’s Tây Hồ District, it’s the perfect place for a catch-up with friends on the weekend. We went there one Saturday with lunch approaching and there were still plenty of seats to choose from in the roomy three-story villa.
Brunch is a relatively new concept in Hanoi. While the term itself — a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch — is well-known overseas, Hanoians tend to start their day so early that, even on a weekend, if you want a good bowl of bún or phở you’ll have to forego a lie-in. Brunch is perfect for those who like to take their weekends slowly and prefer something later on in the morning. While it can be pricier than your regular Vietnamese breakfast, C’est bon’s menu features affordable sets that cater to a variety of tastes, at just VNĐ150,000. The café is consistently recommended on expat Facebook groups, with not even one complaint. I went there with great expectations, and C’est bon excelled even my picky standards.
As well as large communal tables inside the villa for big groups is a large terrace on the ground floor with outdoor seating, which is sure to gain in popularity once the pleasant autumn breezes blow.
A gorgeous patisserie greeted me at the entrance. While its menu is distinctly American, everything is taken up a notch with careful techniques and attention to detail under the close eye of a French chef. I was most impressed by its so-called “brownie” (VNĐ65,000), fancily cut and decorated with extra toppings, including two mini macarons, hazelnut, and a touch of chocolate whipped cream on a coat of shiny chocolate glaze.
LIGHT & SPACE: A sunny day at C’est bon café. Photo C’est bon café
First on to the table was the Silver Needle white tea we ordered. It came in black lacquerware with gold piping, matching the fancy appearance of the Dammann Frères premium white tea. It brewed on the table, coming with an hour glass to exactly time the five minutes needed. The clear pot was heated over a small candle, mimicking the old-school way of brewing in a kettle. The refined, delicate taste of the white tea complimented our brunch experience well.
The menu boasts many different dishes, with the stars of the show being four different types of eggs Benedict. Indeed, as the café’s signature dishes, they are so perfectly made that the first mouthful is truly heavenly. We ordered the avocado eggs Benedict, with a crispy bacon add-on. The nutritious microgreens with fresh cherry tomato quarters on top of thinly sliced marinated radish enveloping the poached egg on toast made the dish look like something found at a fine dining restaurant. We were so enthused by its elevated, elaborate appearance that we spent a good five minutes just admiring and capturing its beauty. And the thoughtful staff adjusted the lighting so we could take better photos. The acidity of the lemon in the hollandaise sauce brought an unexpected flavor explosion. We were amazed by every impeccable bite.
The fig and walnut French toast was our sweet option, bursting with a flavour combination on par with the eggs Benedict. A nice coat of sprinkled sugar gave it some pleasant extra crunch, contrasting well with the soft, fluffy toast. And the walnut gave it a nutty boost. The highlight, though, was the dried fig. I love figs, be they fresh or dried. The dried fig here was slightly different to what I’m used to, with a tart touch that cut through the creamy French toast. I never considered acidity to be an important factor in brunch, but C’est bon enlightened me. The touch of cream cheese on top is the perfect addition, making every bit a mix of creamy - soft - crunchy - nutty - sour - fruity.
INVITING WELCOME: The beautiful patisserie by the entrance. VNS Photo Vân Anh
Though the patisserie caught my eye on the way in, we were all too full to indulge. Within minutes of me posting on Instagram, at least ten foodie friends had asked for the address. I made plans straight away to bring some of them here, and will perhaps try the salads and tartines when I do, and most certainly the patisserie. The excellent and quick service from the friendly staff made my brunch experience a memorable one, and I’m already looking forward to future visits. — VNS