Naomi’s birthday celebrations couldn’t have come at a better time. They provided a much-needed excuse to spoil ourselves with good food and drinks. We were ready for a relaxing week after trying to jam pack as much as we could into the past couple of weekends.
On Tuesday 29th November, we booked ourselves a table at Pots n’ Pans, a Vietnamese-European fusion restaurant round the corner from our flat. This meal was a treat paid for by Naomi’s Dad and Silvia (thanks again guys). We decided to go all out and order cocktails, three courses and wine. It was initially difficult to look beyond the prices on the menu without feeling guilty and thinking our combined monthly food budget is the same price as this Australian beef tenderloin. But we told ourselves that this meal was technically free and it didn’t take long to before we were spurring one another on to ‘go for that second glass of wine if you want to, because you deserve it girl!’
Here’s what we pigged out on just to make you all drool over your keyboards:
Starter: shared ‘stuffed pumpkin flower fritter with 3 kinds of cheese, petit salad, cherry tomato and balsamic dressing’ (cheese never tasted so good)
Mains: Naomi had ‘pistachio crusted rack of lamb with taboule salad, baked root vegetables and Vietnamese soy bean paste creamy sauce’. Lawrence had ‘rib-eye steak served with stuffed potato with cheese, bacon, onion, sautéed green bean herb butter and merlot sauce’
Dessert: shared ‘soya milk crème brulee with sautéed pear with rock sugar served with vanilla ice cream’ AND ‘crispy banana spring rolls with chocolate sauce and cinnamon ice cream’
Cocktails: Passion fruit mojito and Caipirinha
Wine: 4X glasses of red
We left the restaurant with full bellies and big grins on our faces wondering what we did to deserve such indulgence. It was the perfect mid week treat and made the remainder of the week a breeze knowing that we weren’t even finished with the celebrations.
The big birthday treat arrived on the Friday evening when we checked in to the Apricot Hotel for two nights (big shout out to Naomi’s mum), located up in the Old Quarter right by Hoan Kiem Lake. We’d walked by this pristinely white hotel hundreds of times since arriving, admiring its marbled and gold interior from afar with our noses pressed against the polished glass doors. This time we were the ones looking back from the other side of the window.
We were greeted with complimentary iced passion fruit juices while we sank into the plush sofas beneath glittering, oversized chandeliers. We were taken to our room, which was just as elegantly decorated as the rest of the hotel; a mix of ‘timeless-traditional’ with a Vietnamese twist (bamboo furniture and locally sourced artwork). One of the best features of the room was the remote control blind that separated our en suite from the main bedroom. There was also a pretty wacky telephone.
We enjoyed a BBQ feast for dinner sat on plastic stools once again, in the midst of all of the locals, but smugly returned to our lavish room and slipped into our robes and slippers. Room service appeared at 9pm to inform us they had prepared a complimentary passion fruit birthday cake for Naomi. We gobbled the whole thing in one sitting and gently drifted off to sleep underneath Egyptian cotton sheets and duck feather pillows.
We would never normally choose stay in such an extravagant hotel, not only because we can’t afford it, but also because when we travel we never spend any time in our rooms aside from sleeping; we’re too busy outside exploring. But as we have already done our fair share of exploration in Hanoi we decided to spend as much time as we could lapping up the good life in the Apricot. We used their gym facilities (which felt great after months of feeling too exhausted or too hot to exercise), the sauna, steam room and rooftop pool. We made sure to have a cocktail in hand as the sun set over Hoan Kiem Lake.
Naomi’s birthday dinner of choice was the Hanoi Social Club, a popular spot that we’d only been to once before but vowed to come back to for special occasions. We ate their signature burgers, washed down with more cocktails and IPA craft beer. There was even a little red wine left over in the hotel room that we squeezed into our ballooning stomachs.
While it was difficult to check out knowing that we’d be walking past this hotel every weekend wistfully reminiscing about the time we were living it up with the rich and famous, we felt content returning to beef noodle soups come Monday. We’d had a ridiculously indulgent weekend and did our best to spend Naomi’s birthday money but a little goes a long way here and even fancy cocktails on rooftop bars don’t add up to much, so we have a little left over to save for another evening when we’re craving IPA’s.
Thank you for spoiling us! (Keep your eyes peeled for the final edition of Naomi’s birthday treats next weekend when we will be trying our hand at cooking Vietnamese Food at the Blue Butterfly Cookery Class, courtesy of Hannah Dixon).