Set away from the main drag of Chapel Street, Hanoi Hannah has quickly made itself at home, inhabiting the space formerly occupied by Capital DJ Records. The lively eatery has been serving fashionable, fresh and fabulous Vietnamese street food with a smile since early 2012, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
The boys behind Hanoi Hannah – owners Simon Blacher, Paul Nguyen and Nicholas Coulter – have a wealth of experience between them. They met seven years ago at the Saint Hotel, (the trio are partners there too) and have all worked at numerous other Melbourne eateries and watering holes. Having all travelled extensively through Vietnam and South East Asia, and all being lovers of the flavour and the informality of the food, they saw a hole in the market – the absence of decent Vietnamese food south of the Yarra River.
“We wanted to create an informal bustling environment similar to the streets of South East Asia – fun and unpretentious,” Nick said. The partners’ knowledge, combined with enthusiasm and love for what they do, has set them up with a recipe for success.
Behind the kitchen door, Chef Shaym Krishna Maharjan leads a small team, dedicated to serving tasty, bright and authentic, yet modern, Vietnamese street food. From the old-favourites Pho, Banh mi and Rice paper rolls, to the crowd-pleasing Pork belly sliders, a range of salads and Hanoi-style spring rolls – every dish is a hit with the tastebuds. As Vietnamese food is known for its use of fresh ingredients, it’s unsurprising that quality produce is central at Hanoi Hannah. Fresh produce is sourced directly from the wholesale fruit and vegetable markets in Footscray, while specialty items – including the popular Halida beer – are brought in from Vietnam.
Shaym has recently returned from a fact-finding cooking trip to Hanoi, so be sure to keep an eye out for new and exciting dishes to hit the menu. Beyond the popular Halida, the drinks on offer at Hanoi Hannah are just as exciting as the food. If you’re keen to keep it non-alcoholic, the pineapple and lychee slushie is a great pick, with the white wine sangria a great choice to kick-start a night on the town with friends.
So, what’s in a name? “‘Hanoi Hannah’ originates from a radio personality during through Vietnam War. Trinh Thi Ngo was a Vietnamese radio personality who littered the airwaves with anti-American propaganda, and the GIs nicknamed her Hanoi Hannah,” says Nick. “As expected we have received some pretty interesting feedback regarding the name, but at least people are talking about it!”
As far as the memory of Capital DJ Records goes, Hanoi Hannah has kept the loud tunes pumping – the restaurant exudes a buzzy, confident vibe, with fast and friendly service to match. Arrive early to guarantee a seat, but don’t stress, if you do have to wait for 15-20 minutes, there are at least 10 bars within a 100 metre radius worthy of a quick drink.