Vietnam, Hanoi: Day 3- Madame Hien & The Mad Botanist

A little dinner and drinks review

Madame Hien

Madame Hien was one of the few places we had booked in advance of heading out to Vietnam, we had planned on mostly eating street food but thought we might want a few sit down dinners too and it had a bunch of good reviews on a number of different platforms.

We took a table outside in the courtyard area and started looking through the menu, there were quite a few options for either à la carte or different variations on tasting menus. There is a pleasant contrast between the piano playing indoors versus the hustle and bustle of the street outside,if you can get a seat here, it’s a great spot for people watching and there are some beautiful lanterns too.

All of the choices were very reasonably priced and as we were still finding our feet with Vietnamese food it seemed wise to let the decisions be made for us so we went with the street food style tasting menu as we thought it would help us better identify dishes whilst we were out and about.

Crab soup came first with green papaya and noodles, the soup itself had a prominent shellfish flavour and there was a good amount of meat also.

Starters included rice paper wrapped vegetables, fresh and deep fried spring rolls and a light, crisp salad topped with peanuts. Nothing was larger than a mouthful so not too big to fill us up.

The grilled fish ( we don’t know what type it was) was firm but flaky, we weren’t sure how best to eat it so ended up dipping it into the hot/sweet/sour/salty sauce and then bundling some noodles in our mouths afterwards. Not that elegant but it worked for us.

Bun Cha was our top dish when we did the food tour so we were excited to have it again, we didnt have any condiments to add to this one which made a notable difference, whilst it was still tasty,it lacked the complexity of the one we had eaten previously although the herbs were fresher we didn’t have any lettuce leaves to make wraps from.

Pudding was always going to be a winner, the ice cream was ultra rich and smooth but it was the tapioca I enjoyed more, I’ve a dim memory of eating it as a child and thinking it was frogspawn so it was a good thing to try again as an adult, I really enjoy the contrast between a silky smooth coconut milk and the slight bite of the pearls. With bit of fruit thrown in too it was great, one I will try at home I feel.

Dinner was positive, everything we had was enjoyable and it was nice to have a ‘proper’ meal. But of you were to ask me to pick street food vs this, then I would be taking up a perch on a plastic stool given the choice. street food I best where a vendor just does one thing, and doesn’t really well and we had been spoilt by visiting some very good outlets at the start of the trip.

The Mad Botanist

Gin fever hasn’t quite hit Vietnam yet so we were quite surprised to find a gin bar at all, the location itself is pretty odd- you enter through what looks a lot like a takeaway restaurant and then work your way up to the top of the building where there are two floors for drinks. Both floors have new,stylish decor and a bit of a modern-speakeasy sort of vibe to them but the top has a balcony area with a great view of the city.

There is a full drinks menu with a good selection of gin. Normally we want to try local spirits but that’s not that easy in Hanoi so we instead had a tasting selection which we shared between us, it included 6 25ml servings with tonic water and the appropriate accompaniments and cost about £20

We asked for a surprise selection with a few exclusions (nothing English and a few very common European ones removed that we likes but see often)

Each drink was served at the table and we tried to guess what we were having. We did pretty well, and of the out of 6 there were two that we had never heard of. We originally thought we would be there for a few hours but as many of the gins were familiar to us and we were pretty worn out we didn’t have anything else. It’s a relaxed kind of bar and the only place we found with a good gin selection so it’s certainly something we would recommend.

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