Hidden away from prying eyes, a mussel soup restaurant on Quan Thanh doubles up as an impromptu art gallery. Words by me. Photos by Francis Roux. The article was published on Word Hanoi Issue August 2012.
Both Hanoi locals and foreign residents will be familiar with Quan Thanh Pagoda. Lying on the edge of Ho Tay, just at the junction of Thanh Nien and Quan Thanh, it sits amid two busy streets forever thronging with people.
Look through the crowds, though, and near the traffic lights you will see a small wooden board advertising Chao Trai Ho Tay. But investigate and look around, and you’ll find no shop and certainly no evidence of any chao (rice congee). Until, that is, you come across an old man sitting on a tiny chair. Once he realises what you’re after he’ll point the way down a small, winding alley.
Once you’re in the winding alley you’re almost there. A few shops surround you sporting bep lo and catering for traditional street food. Only at the very far end will you see Chao Trai Ho Tay, the little shop in the corner.