address icon 22 Ly Quoc Su, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi

Vegas (elite user)
Vegas on Joma Bakery Café - Ly Quoc Su
January 12th, 2011 at 8:50 pm

This is the new premises that replaced the old Joma that shut down on Dien Bien Phu (I suspect there's a story there).

Well, service, food and drinks are the same as before. Generally - sandwiches good, fresh. Baked goods also are worthy. Considering where we are, the cakes and biscuits are very good, with one or two exceptions - the chocolate and mocha cakes, as well as the fruit crumbles, aren't up to much. Also, the lasagna and pizza is pretty ordinary - the former is bland, overcooked and a bit gluggy; the latter is overly bready, covered in cheddar cheese and not overly appealing topping, and...probably this is the crux of the problem...suffers from being baked, then refrigerated for several hours, then reheated again before serving. Coffee is reliably decent. Regarding service, I was a Joma Dien Bien Phu regular and knew the staff there well. Happily, the same staff are still working at the new place. That's a plus.

As for the new premises, on balance I have to say that I think it's notably worse than the old. The location is considerably less conveniently located, on a one-way street with limited motorbike parking (if you're in a car, forget it). Also, having to head into the traffic-snarled Old Quarter just to come here is more than a bit of a pain in the butt, too. The premises itself is fine - the strong point is the lovely back room with its open fire. Why would you sit at the front? Having said that, Joma's new location is a drawback for me, and I suspect those who don't live in the Old Quarter would feel similarly.

I've noticed that Joma have put their prices up to celebrate the opening of their new place, as well. There's an apology sign on the till blaming inflation and the like. My standard order, a large espresso, has jumped by about 25% - from VND35,000 to VND45,000. Careful, Joma; that's skirting the border of expensive for an espresso, let alone credulity that such a rise could be credited to "inflation".

Overall, Joma serves up consistent quality, and is considerably better than Highlands. The new premises is arguably nicer than the old (I stress arguably), and will suit backpackers and tourists staying in the Old Quarter to a tee. However, Joma Dien Bien Phu's existing regulars - residents of Hanoi - might be ever so slightly put out by its somewhat inconvenient change of location. It's still a reliable cafe to haunt, though; assuming you can find a place to park your motorbike.

UPDATE: my original review was 4 stars. I've dropped it to three, on account of the location. I will almost never take a star off a place for location, but this is one such a place. The lack of parking, and the fact that they have no system in place to show customers where to park, is just too inconvenient not to impact on its rating. Since I first visited, Joma have instigated a no-parking rule out the front of their place. A big sign implies your bike will get confiscated if you park there. So I asked the guard in perfect confused foreigner sign language where I could park my bike. Around the corner, he intimated. I ride around the corner - and what do I spy? A bunch of shops that won't let you park in front of them. Where exactly do I park my bike? I have no idea. Now I'm getting shirty. OK, I have difficulty swallowing that they don't have any space for parking, that's bad enough. But combined with the fact that their system for reliably informing customers where to park is...well...non-existent, that's pretty damning - and damn annoying, too. I guess when I come here, I'll have to pay to park down at the church. And I guess I won't be coming here nearly as often as I used to. Pity. I hope they open another outlet in Ba Dinh or nearby, and I can abandon Ly Quoc Su Joma to the tourists.

What Joma could do to fix this problem is to acquire a piece of pavement around the corner where Joma customers can park their bikes. It needs to be clearly marked out as territory for Joma customers. To avoid all and sundry using it, they might have to post a guard there, as well.