21 January 2017


Southeast Asia is a corner of the world steeped in a European past, and like most countries in the region, Vietnam was once a colony. Colonized by the tea-and-coffee loving French in the 19th century, Vietnam’s history and culture has been greatly influenced by its colonial roots. From buildings, bread-making, to the people’s love of coffee, relics of the past have become an inseparable part of the country’s landscape.

Now decades after the French left, the country has developed a style and flare that is completely its own. Modern-day Vietnam has taken French glamor and Vietnamese tradition and put them side by side to create a fusion of cultures that can be seen in the nation’s art, design and most prominently, in its culinary field. Truth be told, it isn’t too hard to find eateries in Saigon that do a great job at bring together meticulous French cooking techniques and fresh Vietnamese ingredients to create a colorful and varied cuisine that is both beautiful to admire as well as savor.

One place that does an exceptionally great job at bring the two cultures together is the powder blue Café Runam. A café with all the opulence and grandeur that one may expect to find in a bistro in France, Café Runam is bound to catch your eye whilst walking down the street.

The first thing you’ll see as you enter the shop is a copper Elektra espresso machine standing proudly by the entrance. Next to it, the baristas’ counter is illuminated by a whimsical light fixture composed of what looked like over-sized wind chimes and tree branches, and built into the counter was an actual boulder that was used to showcase some of the café’s delicate tea sets.

A fusion of French and Vietnamese style, the café is draped in rich colors and polished finishings further enhanced by the golden tiles that line the length of the shop. Arrangements of tea sets and gift packages are strewn about the space, and customers who have fallen in love with the café’s knick-knakcs and coffees can easily pick a package to bring home or gift to a friend. To the back of the first floor was a warm turmeric-hued salon while upstairs was lounge and outdoor seating area where customers could enjoy their morning cup of joe while basking in Saigon’s sun.

When I got to Café Runam, the place was already buzzing with breakfast goers starting off their day with a cup of the café’s Vietnamese coffee and banh mi served on colorful ceramic plates characteristic of the country. While on the topic of coffee, it’s worth noting that Café Runam takes the beverage very seriously.

When the café first opened three years ago, the community was still very much about drinking coffee with additional flavorings and sweeteners. At first, the idea of drinking coffee without these additives earned the café a couple raised eyebrows yet slowly but surely, mindsets changed and Café Runam’s customers started embracing coffee in its purest form along with all the tastes and nuances that came from enjoying quality beans.

The establishment uses 100% Vietnamese coffee roasted in their own facility in Binh Duong by a master Italian roaster. Their blends vary depending on season, and whether it’s Arabica or Robusta, you can rest assured that you’re getting only the best of Vietnam.

When we told our hotel receptionist about our plans to visit Café Runam, she enthusiastically said we had made an excellent choice. She recommended that we try one of the café’s spicy sandwiches, which we had alongside a couple éclairs with a hot latte, and a stack of fluffy pancakes. Other than what we ordered, the menu had a wide variety of teas and other Vietnamese-French foods that were perfect for kick-starting the day.

Ru, I learned, is a Vietnamese lullaby, and Nam is short for Vietnam, so you could say Café Runam is the lullaby of Vietnam. While it’s a charming concept, it seemed as though the café’s customers would rather spend their mornings in this gorgeous café rather than asleep in bed. With that food, décor, and style, who wouldn’t?   

Address: 96 Mạc Thị Bưởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Phone: +84 8 3825 8883
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 7.00AM-11.PM
Instagram: @caferunam
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caferunam/
Website: http://caferunam.com/