Whatever it serves, a funky and relaxing place to restore physical and mental function after hard working day in the bustling capital will always be popular.  “Mon bung pho co” or “Hanoi old street’s specialties” restaurant is such as place, set in the middle of town and decorated with original but simple, clean and natural Vietnamese elegance that makes the popular restaurant seem like one of the funkiest spots in town.

Diners come to this tiny restaurant not only for food, but also to experience its nostalgic ambience/ Photo: Huyen My

Located on a busy street in Hai Ba Trung district, Hanoi – “Mon bung pho co” is a Vietnamese restaurant that not only serves northern traditional Vietnamese dishes such as noodle soup with rice-field crab, rice noodle soup with fish fillet and sweet black-bean porridge, but also recalls the nostalgia of old Hanoi in 1990s by its impressive decoration.

“Mon bung pho co” – the name of the restaurant refers to the way that people enjoy the dishes – diners have to handle the hot bowl by their hand and enjoy them with chopsticks, instead of placed it down on the table.

Characteristics of Hanoi streets with various narrow alleys and sidewalks have formed the eating habits in pavements. Right after ordering, the dishes were usually delivered straight to the hands of the diners, rather than placed on the tables like in the modern time. Thus, the “Mon bung pho co” wishes to recreate the feeling of an old Hanoi sidewalk eating culture by delivering food like this. In addition, the restaurant’s menu features reminiscent of familiar dishes, often appearing on the dining table of Hanoi families half a century ago.

These hot bowls of noodle with rice-field crab are so familiar with Hanoian/ Photo: Huyen My

According to Mr. Vu Anh Tung, the restaurant’s manager, the diners to “Mon bung pho co” restaurant are very diverse. Many middle-aged diners come to the place not only for food, but also to experience the nostalgic ambience of the restaurant.

For some clients, each of the decoration items at the restaurant recalls them of their youth and childhood of the distant time. While young diners come here just to admire the restaurant’s rustic chic and unique décor featuring old items such as a French bicycle, an old-styled wooden “Garde- manger” (or kitchen utensil cabinet) or a French-styled old lamp.  

“The restaurant staffs are all dressed in ba Ba clothes – a kind of rustic outfit worn by both men and women of Hanoian the old days. We hope our diners will feel enchanted and familiar when coming to the restaurant,” Tung said.

Having a meal at the tables which are transformed from copper trays is also an enjoyable experience for the diners. The bronze plates were once familiar items of every Vietnamese, from rural to urban areas.

The restaurant’s cooking pots, food trays, food lids, among others are all made from rattan, bamboo and wood/ Photo: Cuu Be

In addition to the ba Ba clothes and the copper trays, other décor elements at “Mon bung pho co” restaurant such as cooking pots, food trays, food lids, among others are all made from rattan, bamboo and wood. These are materials extremely familiar to Vietnamese and associated with their daily life from time immemorial until now.

At a corner of the two-storey restaurant, there is an old-style wooden “Garde- manger” or kitchen utensil cabinet that used to be a highlight items in the kitchen in an old Hanoi house. Placing next to it were some terracotta jars for food storage.

It seems that these familiar decoration objects have touched the hearts of diners, so that they return here time and again reminisce their old days in the past.

“I was born in the countryside. The displayed items here at the restaurant, are all the things we have at home, like this bunch of lemongrasses, the oil lamp and a bamboo plate over there. Thank you for bringing the soul of the countryside to the street,” said Mr. Nguyen Thanh Bien from Hai Hau commune, Nam Dinh province, a diner of the restaurant.