Vietnam Coffee Republic is small chain (of two), part of a growing band of speciality coffee shops in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. Like the nearby The Workshop Coffee and the various branches of Shin Coffee, Vietnam Coffee Republic is both roaster and coffee shop. There’s a large coffee shop just around the corner, while this, the VCR Bar & Showroom, is where all the roasting takes place, plus it’s a coffee shop in its own right.
Sheltering under the towering edifice of the Roseland Corp Hotel, the VCR Bar & Showroom is easily missed. There’s more seating outside, a lovely area set back from the road, than there is inside, a wide, shallow space with the roaster at one end behind the counter.
When it comes to coffee, which is all grown in Vietnam, the VCR Bar & Showroom has the same menu as its big sibling, serving four principle blends containing varying ratios of Robusta and Arabica beans, plus a single-origin. These are available as espresso or filter, with options including V60, Aeropress, cafetiere and syphon, plus traditional Vietnamese filter coffee. If you’re hungry, there’s a salad bar, with a range of tasty salads on offer.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Vietnam Coffee Republic’s little sibling is one block over on a relatively quiet street off the main drag. While it serves the same comprehensive espresso and pour-over menu, the VCR Bar & Showroom is a very different space, the sort of place you’d pop in, have your coffee and leave. In contrast, Vietnam Coffee Republic is somewhere that you could easily spend all day in.
Set back from the street, there’s a rather grand edifice, with twin flights of stairs leading up on either side, meeting at the top to form a broad balcony, which is the entrance to the Roseland Corp Hotel. In contrast, the VCR Bar & Showroom is easy to miss, the A-board on the pavement being the main giveaway. Tucked away on the ground floor, it occupies the space under the balcony between the stairs. Much like its bigger sibling, this gives it a basement-like feel.
There’s a generous outside seating area which really benefits from being set back from the street, the back section sheltering under the balcony. Further shelter is provided by two marble pillars on the inside of the staircases, leaving a narrow opening which is lined by potted shrubs, with a bench on the left. Past these, and into the seating area proper, there are more benches to the left and right. At the back, a floor-to-ceiling window with a sliding glass door in the centre takes up about two thirds of the space, with two smaller benches on the left and a large one on the right. Finally, there’s a single bench up against the stairs on each side.
If the world was organised how it should be, this relative symmetry would be matched inside, but it’s not. Instead, the counter is immediately to the right of the door, a large space behind it housing the (very) small roaster, which produces the coffee for both shops.
The coffee shop, meanwhile, extends to the left where there is more seating in the shape of low stools, with three large cubes down the middle acting as tables (although the one closest to the counter, directly opposite the door, holds a massive set of cold brew apparatus, limiting its usefulness). A single wooden shelf, recessed into the wall, runs all the way around these three sides, holding coffee equipment (front), magazines (left) and coffee beans (back).
The interior is very different from its big sibling, all very clean lines, whitewashed walls and ceilings, plus a concrete floor, mellowed slightly by the wooden furniture and shelving. That’s not to say I didn’t like it: it had a clinical feel to it which was strangely relaxing. It also helps that it’s air-conditioned! You don’t have to go inside, by the way: if the barista spots you, you’ll be greeted outside with a menu. Sit down, order and your coffee will arrive in due course: all very civilised.
Having tried the single-origin as a pour-over two days previously at Vietnam Coffee Republic, I opted for the 100% Arabica blend as a double espresso. This was quite a long shot, served in a 6oz cup, but this was no bad thing. A delicate coffee, it was quite bright, but nicely rounded, with very much a front of the mouth taste to it.
It was easily my favourite espresso in Ho Chi Minh City, something I’d have happily returned for. In fact, as much as I liked the backpackers’ hotel I stayed in, I’d have gladly paid a little more to take a room at the Roseland if I’d have known it had such great coffee underneath it!
|8A/6D2 THÁI VAN LUNG • QUAN 1 • HO CHÍ MINH CITY • VIETNAM|
|https://republic.coffee||+84 91 166 0099|
|Monday||07:00 – 22:00||Roaster||Vietnam Coffee Republic (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 22:00||Seating||Benches (outside), Stools (inside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 22:00||Food||Salads|
|Thursday||07:00 – 22:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||07:00 – 22:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 22:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 22:00||Power||Yes (inside)|
|Chain||Local||Visits||11th June 2017|
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