For some, art is the only reason needed to journey across continents and oceans. I suppose in the eyes of an artist, Southeast Asia must be the ultimate playground and Vietnam a sandbox full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Between its colors, textures, and patterns, the thriving country attracts artists from all over the world like ships to a lighthouse with its architecture, music, fashion, and paintings galore.
Enjoying art in Vietnams’ biggest city is easy; just take a walk. Left and right are eye-catching clothing stores, galleries, and museums, though I did mention in a previous article that Saigon is well known for its many hidden gems as well, one of which lies in wait above the art arcade on Dong Khoi Street.
While exploring District 1, we came across the art arcade by chance. While going through the colorful paintings, I spotted a sign pointing upstairs whose logo I had seen a couple times while scouring the internet. Curious, I made my way up the stairs and down the checkerboard corridor to see the last thing you’d expect to find in a market.
A bistro, café, and lifestyle shop, the first word that comes to mind when entering L’Usine is big. Between the high ceilings, large windows and wide open space, it was plain to see that the shop definitely wasn’t your regular neighborhood waterhole. Its European style and vintage feel felt natural and real, and on closer inspection, you would’ve been able to spot sign atop the shop’s large arched windows from across the street as well as a glimpse of the lights that illuminated the shop.
The space was divided into several sections, starting with the cafeteria style dining area in the front. Charmingly framed by twinkling trees with an eye-catching mural to the side, the main dining area saw more and more customers finding to the bistro either by careful research or pure coincidence. From my seat, I got a good view of the floor to ceiling menu by the entrance as well as the display case stocked full of scrumptious looking cakes and bakes. To appease our sweet tooth, we ordered a lemon tart, a slice of red velvet cake, and a hot latte all of which were wonderfully made and delicious. I’d definitely suggest you come hungry when visiting L’Usine as the bistro has a great selection of breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and everything in between.
Through the doorway to the right was another cozy room full of diners chowing down with friends or answering emails while sipping on a cup of coffee. To the left of that was a little area where L’Usine sold bags of roasted coffee beans, health-foods, and souvenirs. L’Usine definitely did not lack floor space, though as spacious as it was, it certainly did not lack warmth; every corner of the shop was warm, cozy, and beautifully designed.
Lovely as the front of the shop is, the back was where L’Usine’s pièce de résistance laid. More than just a place to tuck in and enjoy a meal, L’Usine is a hub and platform for passionate artists from all over the world to exchange ideas and thoughts. Priding itself on building a brand that showcased quality and authenticity, L’Usine is a master of curating the best that the artists of the world have to offer.
Getting lost in racks of hand-selected clothes, hand-made bags, scented candles, and bespoke furniture is a great way to spend an afternoon, don’t you think? I and all the other patrons wandering the store thought so.
As the afternoon dragged on, more and more people started to pile into the shop, with many looking around excitedly at the hidden gem they had just discovered. Whether you’re a traveller or a local, Saigon is full of surprises waiting to be found, and if you’re an artist, then this might well be paradise. When in Saigon, ditch the map and get lost; you never know what you’ll find, but if you’re an artistic soul looking for a place to start your exploration of the city, L’Usine is a great place to start.