At first glance, Hanoi is overwhelming. Especially during your first trip to Vietnam. Narrow streets are filled with scooters, food carts, and way too many people. Your senses are overloaded with loud noises and strong scents. While the thick air makes it hard to breathe.
It isn’t until you leave the Old Quarter that you start to relax and enjoy Vietnam’s capital. Tightly woven streets give way to wider, tree-lined boulevards. Scurrying people slow their pace around Hoàn Kiếm Lake. Grand colonial architecture gives only the first impression as to why Hanoi is called the Paris of the East (baguettes will be the next). You’re slowly starting to feel the rhythm of the city.
By the time you reach the Ba Đình District, you’re completely at ease. The French Quarter is home to the Hanoi Opera House, the historic Hotel Metropole, the State Bank of Vietnam, and countless ambassador residences. High-end shops and elegant restaurants fill old mansions. Art galleries seem to pop up every other day. And your new favorite hangout spot is in the center of it all.
Tadioto is part café, part bar, and part performance space. Red metal doors and windows were added to the French Colonial facade. Velvet curtains smell like a combination of citrus and peppermint when you pull them apart to enter. Concrete floors connect a series of dimly lit rooms. A heavy, rotating, glass door separates a vintage furniture-filled lounge with the main room, which has small tables and a salvaged timber bar. Tall windows open to the street and a few metal tables. The whole space is brimming with artwork.
Nguyen Qui Duc is the man behind Tadioto. His father, a senior official in the South Vietnamese government, was captured by the communists during the 1968 Tet Offensive. His family subsequently fled to the U.S. Duc, a writer and translator, eventually wrote a book about his family’s experiences during the Vietnam War. Then he moved back to his homeland in 2006. Tadioto was established, at another location, in 2008. This space in the French Quarter opened two years ago.
After wandering around the hectic Old Quarter for much of the day, you arrive at Tadioto for a late-afternoon drink. Both classic and seasonal cocktails are on the menu. Your eyes linger over the Jade Margarita made with passion fruit. The smoked eggplant spread, served with rice crackers, tempts you on the light bites section of the menu, as well. As you sip your cocktail, you watch motorbikes whiz down the street and listen to two artists talk about their works in progress. You finally feel not just at ease, but at home, in Hanoi.