WHERE TO EAT
The parquet-floored fine-diner at the Metropole serves a five-star Vietnamese street-food buffet for lunch and à la carte plates such as banana-blossom salad and Hai Phong rock lobster noodle soup at dinner. Specialties include the H'mong grilled black chicken, Sapa Mountain black pig and Dalat asparagus soup. Four- and five-course dégustation menus are good value at $90-$110.
15 Ngo Quyen, sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.com
Maison de Têt Décor
Australian Pete Wilkes ticks all the expat-friendly boxes at this airy mansion in fashionable West Lake. Go for excellent coffee – single-origin, roasted on site – and stay for the all-day breakfasts (have the fig, walnut and date claypot sourdough), local craft beer and a broad offering of Vietnamese and Western meals. Mojitos and Cosmos optional.
Villa 156 Tu Hoa, tet-lifestyle-collection.com
The menu at this atmospheric, century-old house has something for every appetite, from spring rolls stuffed with pork and prawn to popular snacks such as fried pork stomach, frogs' legs and river mussels. Every conceivable protein is served – including, unfortunately, tortoise cooked in salt with green banana and tofu. On the bright side, the wine list is surprisingly extensive.
63-65 Ngo Hue, chimsao.com
WHERE TO DRINK
This cocktail bar channels an Old Hanoi speakeasy with its draped and moody black interiors and soundtrack of piano jazz. There's a zinc sushi bar, a "hunger relief program" (aka a menu) that runs the gamut from ramen to ham and cheese toasties, and a full range of liquid temptations, including single malts and rather good Negronis.
24b Tong Dan
WHERE TO STAY
Hanoi La Siesta Hotel Trendy
Though the Metropole is still the premier address, a new wave of design hotels is appealing to boutique tastes. In a crooked Old Quarter street, the well-appointed Trendy has 70 smart rooms, with Vietnamese retro furnishings and French tiling. Its Red Bean restaurant does classic Vietnamese and European dishes with flair, and basement bar The Den serves cocktails and Château Margaux.
12 Nguyen Quang Bich, hanoilasiestatrendyhotel.com
WHERE TO SHOP
Hanoi's independent makers create unique keepsakes. Whimsical creatures decorate Bat Trang ceramics at Cerender (11a Trang Thi, cerender.com). Writer Nga Hoang and photographer Liem Tran's Collective Memory showcases artisan homewares, block-printed notebooks and even Hanoi Monopoly (20 Nha Chung, collectivememory.vn). Lucy's Dream on Silk Street prints original artworks on silk, linen and satin (31 Hang Giay, www.lucysdream.info).
THINGS TO DO
Vietnam Airlines flies direct to Hanoi from Sydney, and direct from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City with frequent connections to the capital.