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[Pictures: Todd Eyre]

It used to be that if you wanted really, really good Vietnamese, you had to go to Mekong Vietnamese at the Ponsonby International Food Hall and sit with the teeming hordes and the fluorescent lighting. Or you could drive somewhere way down south of Auckland and feel all smug. No longer: now, you can go to Cafe Hanoi, which opened last month in a restored building in the Britomart precinct.

The fitout is brilliant – an industrial, raw sort of space with bright red chairs and big round rice paper shades – and the service is accomplished. The wine list is nicely suited to the salty-sweet-spicy nature of Vietnamese food. But the litmus test for places like this is the food – so often, there’s too much sugar, too much chicken and too much glug. Not here. Flavours are fresh and authentic; there are plenty of herbs. Presentation is masterful.

There were quibbles, of course. Fresh summer rolls needed more mint; a papaya, carrot and chicken salad was a little bland on its own, but the condiments – nuoc cham, chilli, lime – pepped it up. Wokked gurnard with turmeric, galangal and ginger was a standout: sticky and salty and strong. Best of all, though, was Hanoi-style grilled pork with herbs and nuoc cham soup – it comes with lettuce leaves for you to make porky, crunchy bundles, with a smoky flavour from the grilled pork. We’ll be back to try the “shaking” beef. SFG

HOURS Open 12pm until late Monday to Friday; 5pm until late Saturday.

ADDRESS Cnr Galway & Commerce Streets, Britomart, ph 302-3478.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No dinner bookings (although you can book for lunch) but you can drink next door at 1885 Britomart while you wait. If there’s two of you, try for a seat at the bar, with a view of the kitchen.


  1. i think that you should remove this from your suitable for large groups category. we went there last night for our work christmas dinner. twenty of us. but they wouldn’t sit us at the same table. the service we slow and extremely patronising. we actually ended up finishing our meals quickly and moving next door to the downstairs of 1885 where the staff (without a booking or really any prior warning) were friendly and accommodating.
    in saying that, the thai beef salad was amazing.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  2. SFG wrote:

    Thanks Emily, and sorry if our category led you astray – we’ve changed that now. Hope the beef made up for it.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  3. Claudia Zinzan wrote:

    Hi, we are so excited to go to this delicious looking restaurant. Just a note now they do take bookings for lunch, so we missed out yesterday when we arrived. Apparently they don’t take bookings for dinner… bit confusing..
    So cannot wait to dine there.. it has made my mouth water more.. always want what you can’t have!

    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 6:46 am | Permalink
  4. SFG wrote:

    Hi Claudia, so sorry to hear you didn’t make it, but thanks for letting us know. We’ll update the Important Details forthwith!

    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  5. Robert Alderling wrote:

    Hi guys, I just had to let you know that I went to Cafe Hanoi last week on Saturday and it was packed, full to the rafters. We had to wait for a table which was more than understandable.

    We headed down to the bar downstairs which I understand is part of Cafe Hanoi and had a blast, the barman was extremely inviting and the light snacks kept us going until we were seated, which wasn’t all that long at all.

    My wife and I had several dishes but what stood out to us the most was the shaking beef dish. It was absolutely divine and if I ever had to pick a restaurant to eat at again, this one would immediately spring to the top on my mind.

    The service was also very friendly, smart and watching around us the clean up waiters were so onto their game. You could tell that the maitre d’ and Head chef whom I understand from our waiter is also a boss was ran a very clean, cut team that had professionalism beyond belief.

    10/10 from myself and my wife, we have never been so dazzled by a restaurant before hence this being the only time I felt compelled to write a review.

    I really, really do look forward to eating here again.

    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 12:46 am | Permalink
  6. jonathan wrote:

    Just wanted to say – the Shaking Beef is absolutely essential for this place. And make sure you try the ice cream too! They hand-make it… Earl Grey and Burnt Caramel were my favourites. :)

    Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  7. Karen wrote:

    Sadly I have to say that we were disappointed with Cafe Hanoi. We finally made it there last week after much anticipation and found the food to be rather bland and unexciting. In saying that, we did go to Vietnam a couple of years ago so perhaps our expectations were too high. The service was great, very fast…maybe a bit too fast but everyone was very friendly.

    Friday, September 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  8. SFG wrote:

    Sounds like we might need to revisit!

    Friday, September 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

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