There’s no shortage of immaculately designed cafes in Hanoi (and across Vietnam, for that matter)—but Cộng Cà Phê takes the cake. One of the very best cafes in Hanoi (in my humble opinion), Cộng‘s ‘Communist Chic’ design recalls the days of youth brigades, state ownership and Russian-language schoolbooks. When the cafe first opened, the owners apparently got in some hot water for printing their menus over Lenin texts. Seen through a Westerner’s eyes, Cộng‘s style is quite provocative and a bit of a trip. But it’s not such a surprise that many Hanoians look back on this period of history with a certain amount of nostalgia—the North did win the war, after all.
Cộng was founded by Nguyễn Hà Linh, one of Vietnam’s many successful female entrepreneurs. The first branch opened in 2007 on Hanoi’s Triệu Việt Vương Street, taking its moniker from the country’s official name: Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Since then, Vietnam’s first franchise has been on the up and up, with branches opening all over Hanoi and in other cities in the North. There are even rumours of a Cộng opening in London.
For old times’ sake
There’s no denying that Cộng Cà Phê is one of Hanoi’s best-designed cafes. Painted their signature shade of army green, every Cộng branch is typically pokey and dimly lit, with lots of loft spaces and private nooks. (I love this in principle, but since it’s still permitted to smoke indoors in Vietnam, things can go downhill quickly if someone decides to lights up.) Each cafe is dressed in war-era paraphernalia, propaganda posters, wartime photos, vintage Zorki cameras and other antiques. I’d love to know where they get their swag.
A self-described ‘hipster cafe’, Cộng is a gathering place for groups of Vietnamese friends and coworkers. It’s usually packed to the rafters, especially in the early evenings. My favourite Cộng branch (the one pictured here) is much more spacious and has a designated smoking area, which makes it a lot more pleasant.
Aside from its good looks, Cộng serves one of the best coconut coffees in Hanoi. The Tây (Western) style coffee is generally good (though the quality does vary slightly between branches), and the Vietnamese slow drip coffee—made in huge tin pots—packs a serious punch. Most branches offer a small selection of baked goods (handy for soaking up some of that caffeine), and some Cộngs also serve light meals. I’ve seen a few branches with a small gift shop at the counter where you can pick up a bag of coffee or a Cộng-branded, army issue jacket, beret or pair of leather sandals.
For more food and drink recommendations in Hanoi, check out this Hanoi Food Guide from Girl Unspotted.
When a new Cộng opened up near the Temple of Literature, I decided to take some photos to give you a look inside Hanoi’s trendiest cafe chain. I highly recommend a visit to Cộng next time you’re in Vietnam!
Visiting Cộng Cà Phê
There are now at least seven branches of Cộng spread across Hanoi. Most start serving coffee at around 7.30am and stay open until late. Cộng is reasonably priced; a cà phê đá đen (black iced coffee) will set you back 30,000 VND (little more than a dollar). That’s still three-times what you’ll pay on the street, but hey, good design doesn’t come cheap.