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Gecko Cafe (Hanoi, Vietnam)

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Address: 56 Hang Trong / Hoàn Kiếm / Hanoi

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      15.06.2011 10:47
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      A good place to eat in Central Hanoi.

      Gecko Café and Restaurant is based in central Hanoi, Vietnam. According to the card I picked up they are based at a number of locations. One night, after drinking nearby we popped in to the Hang Trong street venue for dinner. They were full but managed to squeeze us in. There were four of us seated at a table for four downstairs, there are only about six tables downstairs, but there is more space upstairs apparently. We never ate upstairs but friends told us it was also cooler upstairs, as it was quite stuffy on the ground floor. The Ground floor is done out in a modern yet informal style, reminiscent of a coffee shop. There was a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere, it was quiet but not like a library - they played mainstream Western music over the stereo - but at the same time you could converse comfortably with your group. I don't know if this is the same upstairs.

      The menu offered an extensive selection of both Vietnamese dishes and Western ones. There was also a large vegetarian selection. We all elected to go straight into our mains. I chose a Vegetarian 'chicken' curry with vegetables and steamed rice. This isn't as odd as it sounds; I had already had this vegetable/soya meat substitute in another restaurant in Vietnam, and in several Chinese restaurants back home. It doesn't really taste chickeny, but just adds a different texture to the dish. I found the dish to be fairly hot, but not over hot. It was tasty and the kick was subtle. This cost VND 59,000 which is about £2 or US$3. My boyfriend, although a meat eater, chose Vegetarian spare ribs as he was curious as to what they were like. He was very impressed thinking they tasted remarkably similar to 'real' spare ribs, although they didn't look much like them. I had never eaten spare ribs, and thought they tasted like the vegetarian 'duck' I get in my local Chinese restaurant back home. They did come with lots of sauce which helped the authenticity I would think, and was also priced at VND 59,000.

      One of our friends had a fish dish, I don't recall exactly which, and I remember there being some bones in it, but certainly apart from having to be careful she really enjoyed it. Meat and fish dishes were also reasonably priced around the equivalent of £3 of $5 for a main course from the Vietnamese menu. Salmon dishes from the Western menu were more expensive as were some steak or lamb dishes. You could also have pasta dishes and they did pizzas for a reasonable price. They offered a range of breakfasts (pancakes as well as other Western and Vietnamese hot breakfasts). The Restaurant is also a coffee shop and they offer a range of coffees, sandwiches and smoothies but I didn't try them. They also have desserts, my friend had a 'Fanny' ice cream which was a small sundae of three different scoops for about VND35,000.

      The drinks were reasonably priced here too. A large Tiger beer was VND25,000 (£0.80 or $1.25) which is excellent value, especially when you consider that Gecko is centrally located with a number of bars and restaurants in the area. Shorts such as vodka and coke were only VND45,000 (£1.50 or $2.25) and cocktails were only a little bit more. Whilst Vietnam is fairly cheap anyway, this was one of the more competitively priced cocktail menus we saw. Because of the good prices we ended up coming back here for drinks after dinner elsewhere the next night.

      The service here was friendly and efficient. Food doesn't necessarily come out altogether (this is typical in Vietnam), but they did a good job here as they are used to Western guests. Vietnamese do come here, but the clientele that we saw were about 65% western. Our server spoke reasonable English, although we did have some misunderstandings. On the first night we were over-charged for some drinks (they had charged us for beer instead of coke) and we queried it but didn't seem to be getting anywhere. When we realised the amount we were quibbling over was about 60p we didn't bother any further. However, we later discovered others had problems with their bills. I am not sure of the details such as the amount or how easy it was resolved and I would not like to cast aspersions. I would hate to think they were deliberately trying to rip us off (this is something we didn't see generally during our trip) and would hope it was a genuine misunderstanding and coincidence, but I think it is worth mentioning. One other thing to note is that there seems to be one toilet for the whole restaurant. It didn't seem to be as busy as I would have expected (but I am not sure how many were seated upstairs), and it was clean-ish. I have to say I have been in worse UK pub toilets.

      Gecko Vafe & Restaurant, 56 Hang Trong St, Hanoi, Vietnam 10000

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