After all these years in business, it has stuck to its mandate – authentic Vietnamese coffee and nothing less. The founders have never compromised and gone down the latte route.
In all its bright and cultured glory, Saigon Café is a highlight of London’s busy Broadway Market and a major magnet for crowds who are fascinated with experiencing a piece of Vietnamese culture or just a wonderful cup of something steaming! Visitors of Saigon Café have the unique pleasure of getting a taste of Vietnam, and watching the lively Broadway Market as shoppers pass through it and give it life. The vibe is warm, inviting and unrivalled; and it is arguably one of the most captivating places to be in the whole city. Many factors work in the favour of the street café – the atmosphere, the charm of street food and the unshakeable feeling of being right at the pulse of something with so much character and culture. But most of all, it’s the fact that Saigon Café is the home of CaPhe VN – where coffee and cultural experience merge seamlessly. It’s impressive to consider that this effervescent street café seats over 80 people and serves many shoppers and passers-by – a feat that proves difficult and often impossible for even the most seasoned restaurants and diners that don’t have to grapple with packing up the whole restaurant at the end of the day.
On numerous occasions, CaPhe VN has been voted one of the best coffee shops in the city, and it has also been featured for best street food in Time Out and other publications and authorities in the restaurant world. What drives this business is the desire to expand the public’s knowledge of Vietnamese coffee, which is relatively non-existent in many parts of the world. When we think of coffee, countries like Brazil, Italy and Colombia are likely to spring to mind, or we think of the American city of Seattle and how coffee became trendy through the companies founded there; but there’s so much more to know – including Vietnam. Thanks to the efforts of CaPhe VN founders Andrew Dinh and Rob Atthill, the knowledge of Vietnamese coffee doesn’t have to be reserved for well-travelled coffee fiends – everyone can enjoy it, and also learn about the incredible facts and nuances that make up the fascinating culture of Vietnam.
Coffee found its way to Vietnam through the French who planted the first coffee plantations to provide coffee for their overseas empire. In the last 30 years the Vietnamese started producing about a third of world’s coffee. Most of this goes into instant coffee, generic blends and a lot of cheap coffee brands to meet global demand, but some of it finds its way to coffee purists and connoisseurs, who revel in the enchanting flavours and aromas of Vietnam. Some of this coffee also finds its way to the glasses and steamers of CaPhe VN. Their own brand CaPhe ZgoZ, is also known as NgoN which is Vietnamese for delicious – a bold statement announcing what to expect when you take that first sip. The white coffees of the café are served with condensed milk, elevating them to what Rob describes as “caffeinated liquid truffles” which makes them an especially indulgent treat. The CaPhe Sua Da is one of the best of these masterful and heavenly concoctions, so it comes as no surprise that customers just can’t get enough of it. Other customer favourites are the Viet Mac – a quadruple Vietnamese espresso with condensed milk, served with a lotus green tea chaser. If you’re less of a coffee lover and more of a foodie, Ca Phe VN tends to your adventurous tastes with a menu of Vietnamese food that is equally unique and innovative; created to electrify every palette. The Central Vietnamese Mi Quang yellow noodles, Chao Vit and rice porridge with roast duck can turn any visiting diner into a regular and well-fed customer.
The story of CaPhe VN started in 2006 when Rob Atthill shipped in a container of Vietnamese street vending carts, custom printed parasols, deck chairs, stainless steel tables and stools. With the paraphernalia of a Saigon café, he was able to get into Hackney’s Broadway Market and lay claim to an unused adjacent street – Benjamin close, which has been CaPhe VN’s home ever since.
What makes CaPhe VN so special? It’s the fact that after all these years in business, it has stuck to its mandate – authentic Vietnamese coffee and nothing less. The founders have never compromised and gone down the latte route. CaPhe VN serves pure Vietnamese style coffee, made with traditional drip filters and the adherence to this mission has earned it recognition, loyal customers and fans.
A visit to CaPhe VN gives diners the chance to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Saigon, without leaving London. You can also expect Vietnamese pop music and traditional tunes which add to the ambience of the space. Vietnamese coffee shops are all about flannerism – or observing the street scene. All the chairs face the street so people can watch the parade of the trendies/hipsters/denzines of Broadway. The variety and unorthodox approach that ‘street food’ brings, added to the authentic and unrivalled cultural experience that is CaPhe VN, makes the Saigon Café an East End mainstay and the perfect example of how a culture can connect and resonate globally through food.
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