Switching to Vietnamese Coffee

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One weekend last year we had a busier than anticipated couple of days which meant we ran out of coffee from our usual supplier by lunchtime Sunday.

Rather than leaving customers caffeineless, we sourced some coffee at the next door Thuy Thanh shop. Following a recent recommendation, we tried the Cafes Folliet brand from Les Vergers Du Mekong.

Bracing ourselves for complaints we watched as regulars did a double take at their coffee then eagerly sipped on.  We received more compliments on the brew in a couple of hours that we had in the previous two years.

By chance we visited a nearby restaurant that evening and our after-dinner coffees arrived in Cafes Folliet cups and it too went down very well.

With the new Tho Xuong branch replacing the old Au Trieu one and with a new coffee machine installed we put off making the leap but we’re chuffed to be going Vietnamese – albeit aligned with a little French know how.

It’s our customers’ tastes that matter but to these taste buds I’d describe the new brew as a little bit stronger.  Can I say it’s got a bit more personality without that sounding a little too food writer?

A little bit of info from the website, the coffee consists of: “Arabica from small farmers of the Highlands in Vietnam, Robusta from different Vietnamese regions and different blends.”

A quick peruse of the back of the coffee bag and it promises caffeine of between 2.2% and 2.4%

In short it’s a world away from the moca-like Vietnamese coffee that works so well with sweet milk and ice but less well as espresso. However, we’re also going to be looking at more iced options once the warmer weather sets in and may utlise more of Les Vergers Du Mekong’s range for this purpose.

Beyond buying local (albeit from the South) we’re also delighted to see our new suppliers’ commitment to the environment.

Coffee is important to us and our customers.  That’s why we lug 30 kilo machines back from the UK.  It’s why we’ve imported proper double walled takeaway ripple cups.  It’s why we stock KeepCups for those who want takeaway but not the waste (we love these people the most). Everyone has their favourite brand and you can’t please them all but Cafe Folliets has had only compliments so far.

We’ll slowly be switching over the branding from our old supplier. The cups are being replaced, the signs are coming down, we’ll try and weed out the many mentions on the website. But yes, the coffee we’re serving is now Vietnamese.

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By The Cart

Happy New Year / Tet Closing

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Just a quick note to say that both The Cart outlets will be closed after today (February 7th) and will re-open on Monday, February 18th.

To all our customers have a brilliant Tet and very very snakey New Year.  Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Cheers

Loan & Staff

By The Cart

From everyone at The Cart…

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From everyone at The Cart we’d just like to wish you a wonderful 2013 and remind you that both branches will be closed on New Year’s Day, January 1st.  We’re looking forward to seeing you all in the New Year.

By The Cart

A squishy opening for The Cart Tho Xuong

Okay, transition time.

The Cart Au Trieu is no more.  It’s an ex-Cart. Is has ceased to be.

The Cart Tho Xuong, across they alley is open. Kind of. We’re serving from there, we’re delivering food, we’re welcoming customers but is all not quite what it should be.  Not all the furniture has arrived – including a counter – so don’t judge us on what is there yet but we’re getting there.

Most important is that the new cart has a new number 0439382513  – the Au Trieu number no longer works.

Basically we’d advise hanging on a week or so if you want to see the new place.  We’d rather make a better first impression at a later stage.

It’s not a soft opening. It’s a whole lot squishier than that. Soft in a week?  Stiffer in two?

We’re looking forward to stiffness.

By The Cart

The Cart Au Trieu is moving

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We’ve long been looking for better premises for The Cart Au Trieu. Good news is we’ve found it – right across the road.

It basically consists of all the thing we were looking for. Glass doors we can shut against the dust and noise of Hanoi but keep the view and all that air-con cool in. Also more, space and importantly everything on one level. The dynamic of a two-storey restaurant has not been ideal.

The pic directly below doesn’t tell the whole story. If you take another step back there’s further space right at the front of the shop to watch the world go by and we’ll have a couple of tables there big enough for small groups to meet, lunch and caffeinate. There’ll also be a counter top running along the right hand wall and tall chairs, much in the style of The Cart Nghi Tam,  with power points for laptops. Of course there’ll also be free WIFI.

The watchword is going to be “cosy”. A hideaway from the Old Quarter on a back alley just a minute from the Cathedral.

In recent months Au Trieu has been a (insert swearword here) to keep clean.  A series of building works, culminating in the whole road being dug up meant, for an open place like ours, it was a nightmare. It accumulated several layers of dust daily. Now, as you can see from the bottom pic, the roadworks continue but hopefully better drainage will mean no more being flooded out.

We hope that by the time we open the new place, in about a month, everything should be fine.  Another beauty of the new site is no more confusion about the address.  It’s just across the road but it has a different street name – we’re moving to 10 Tho Xuong.  Confusingly Au Trieu street was considered the front and back of a single row of premises rather than opposite sides of the street so we shared our street name with the buildings behind us facing the cathedral. If you didn’t follow that then you see our problem.

We will have to change our phone number so we’ll share that with you and get it out to our customers just as soon as we know what day we’ll open the new premises and what the number will be.

All of the above means that we’re looking to affect some level of a relaunch in time for Hanoi’s “challenging” winter.  Winter menu revived and remodelled, new cosier site etc.  The hoody, scarf and latte weather can’t come soon enough.

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By The Cart

Winter Plans: But how cold is Hanoi in Winter?

If you’re yet to encounter a Hanoi winter then right about now you’re thinking….how cold could it be?

The answer is very cold, sometimes very very cold. Yes nothing will freeze, snow won’t fall and you won’t have to defrost your Honda Dream in the morning. But….you will live in a world where that big concrete-framed house you live in won’t get any warmer from morning till night and there isn’t the option to crank up the central heating when you feel a bit chilly. Add in that year round humidity which guides that cold right into your bones and, like we said, it’s cold.

But there are benefits. In the summer it’s too hot to walk anywhere, in the winter it’s too cold to stop moving. Put on a hoody, wrap a scarf round your neck, pull the wooly hat down over your ears and a couple of marched circuits around Hoan Kiem lake will help enormously.

The other is food. For Vietnamese my top tip is pho at 13 Lo Duc not just hot but especially beefy too.  Beyond that, well in the winter of 11/12 when it got down to five degrees an evening’s hot whisky did the trick with honey and lemon.

We’re already planning a few winter extras at The Cart.  We’ve long added soups and stews to our winter menu.  I’d argue that nothing compliments our pies and sandwiches better than hot soup.  The above is the classic coupling of leek and potato soup with a meat and potato pie.  Other favourites include the Irish stew and minestrone.

Unless the weather takes a turn for the chilly we won’t be launching the new winter options until November at the earliest but feel free to give us your feedback.  Leave a comment here, tweet us, add your comments to Facebook or catch up with Loan at the shop and let her know what you think.  As ever we’ll balance price with availability elsewhere and a general sense of what might go down well with customers.  If you’ve a favourite Grand Mother’s soup recipe that you’d like us to have a crack at then by all means share it with us.

In the meantime, don’t worry we’ve got the best bit of the Hanoi season to go through before we get too cold.

By The Cart

Opening hours for the upcoming holiday weekend

Our apologies – circumstances have changed so we’ve had a rejig of our holiday weekend hours:

Both Carts will close early on Saturday 1st and on Monday 3rd of September at 3pm. They will both be closed all day on Sunday September 2nd.  We hope you have a great weekend.

By The Cart

Ordering: online or by phone and changing delivery costs

(SEE UPDATE IN BOLD – midway down)

We’ve spent a couple of hours this afternoon discussing an issue and talking to eat.vn trying to work out what went wrong when a customer in a more far flung district of Hanoi wasn’t very happy at being charged for delivery on an online order.

To cut a long story short, the problem was partly with the online system and partly that he should have been charged in the past but staff had used their discretion in waiving the fee for larger orders.

We’re still getting used to online ordering.  I don’t think there’s any doubts that it’s the future but we all have to adapt.  In particular the system means that using our discretion is no longer an option.  We’ll have to stick to rules as automation is less flexible.  That’s probably not a bad thing.

So, we’ve added an Order Online page on this site to link the sites that offer it.  We’ve also changed our costing so that we will now deliver free to Hoan Kiem and Tay Ho but all deliveries beyond that will be subject to a 20,ooo VND charge their nearest points and farthest flung corners. We no longer go by kilometres we go by regions of Hanoi.

UPDATE: We’ve examined this again in the light of a customer complaint and have made an alteration.  From now – there remains free delivery to HK and TH – but we have reintroduced free delivery for deliveries under 3k from either outlet. Apologies for any problems caused.

The other problem with online is that it puts a barrier between us and the customer.  If something goes wrong then the online company deal with it.  That can, of course, be very useful but it means that they’re the go-between and that can slow down the process of putting things right.

For customers, ordering online is a balance of convenience versus choice.  Online you won’t have the access to the Monday to Friday specials that are announced via Twitter.

So our apologies to our customer today.  The old way was discretion the new way will be consistency. It may be a little less flexible and personal but at least the deal should be clear. You may pay more, you may pay less but you should at least always know how much you’ll pay.

Finally hats off to Ginger and Ross, both who have ordered with us via Vietnammm in the past couple of weeks and left kind reviews.  Ross if you’re reading this – thanks for the heads up about the Coke cans not being cold. We’ll try and avoid it happening in the future.

By The Cart