Chilling by the lake with drink in hand

by Hoàng Vân Anh

Ma Xó prides itself on its priceless sunset lake view, which is certainly one of its main selling points. Best known as a brunch spot, it’s nonetheless packed most of the time and its unique, cosy ambience reminds me of hanging out at a friend’s house.

Scrolling down its posts, I saw that they show guests snuggled up in warm blankets on cold winter days. Best yet, the food is always fresh, healthy and delicious, and they offer a host of different sessions that create a community of food, wine and art lovers, all soaking in its unique vibe and space.

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BLUE VIEWS: Tiny seats on the footpath and good company at Ma Xó. Photo courtesy of Ma Xó

I first went to Ma Xó a few years ago after reading reviews raving about its brunch. It was packed, and we eventually sat down in tiny chairs and shared a few dishes that didn’t really stand out. The tiny chairs reminded me of iced tea places on the footpath, which wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, so I then proceeded to forget all about Ma Xó for a while.

After leaving Hà Nội and returning last year, I saw a post about an intimate DJ Mixup and invited some friends over to see and hear what it was all about. It was a surprising sight: there was no raised DJ booth, just a regular table that you could sit at across from the DJs, and maybe even get to know them when they weren’t busy DJing.

Since my friends and I wanted to chat, we decided to head upstairs instead, and were pleasantly surprised with the space: a balcony with cosy sofas and dim yellow lights, creating the perfect setting for a casual get-together. While a friend ordered a teapot, I went with one of their incredibly affordable cocktails, and we all sipped on drinks and took in the surroundings. It was a little on the empty side, so we plugged in our phones, listened to our music and created our own vibe, as if it was one of our living rooms. We didn’t need to worry about fitting in, or sharing the space with others.

From 5.30pm to 7.30pm every Wednesday and Thursday, Ma Xó offers an affordable wine session where people can watch the sunset and enjoy the breeze while sipping on some tasty selections.

Since my second encounter with Ma Xó was so pleasant, one beautiful sunny day I invited some friends to come along and soak up the beautiful sunshine over brunch.

The menu at Ma Xó is as diverse as Tây Hồ district itself: Shakshuka with house-made creme fraiche and Roti Canai, fig toasty, slow-roasted duck phở cuốn (phở rolls), cao lầu (delicious Quảng Nam mixed noodles), and Swiss-style pumpkin rostito, as well as seasonal offerings like rich and creamy winter-warmer roasted cauliflower and coconut soup, with Moroccan spice blends ras el hanout.

The menu works perfectly for groups of picky friends who want to try some international cuisine. All dishes can be made into vegan or vegetarian versions, and Ma Xó really does try to please everyone and put a smile on their face.

I had to go with the fig toasty (VNĐ150,000), as the photo and description sounded too good to be true. Their toasted sourdough bread with fennel seeds was packed with pecorino and goat cheese, crispy bacon and figs, caramelised onions, and a side salad of mint, avocado and feta cheese. It was so fresh and tasty.

My friends, who had never tried figs before, were shocked at the texture and the flavour of the toasty. One of them ordered the omelette, bacon and roti bread with a side of chunky tomato salsa (VNĐ130,000), and really enjoyed it. It had been such a long time since I last had roti, so it was nice to discover I can have it for brunch with beautiful views of Hà Nội. All of the food and their flavour combos leave you feeling full but happy and healthy.

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AMAZING TEXTURE: The fig toasty was incredibly fresh and tasty. VNS Photo Vân Anh

They also offer fresh smoothies and juices, and the best part is, it’s not over-priced like other healthy food spots around Tây Hồ.

The seating at Ma Xó is unique. Spread across their two floors, each corner offers different vibes. There’s a tiny, hidden corner right next to the kitchen for those preferring privacy. The main seating on the first floor involves large groups squeezing in, which literally brings everyone together. There are also tiny wooden tables and chairs facing the lake, under the breezy shade of tall trees — perfect for a lazy afternoon. Most first-timers will be able to see these corners since they’re on the first floor. But my favourite spot is the fourth floor, where there’s a sofa as well as short and tall tables, with incredible views of Truc Bach Lake at all times of the day.

I love every Instagram post Ma Xó creates. They promote and brag about what they have to offer, but it feels genuine, like receiving a text from a close friend.

It really does offer the best of all worlds: excellent food and drinks, affordable prices, incredible spaces, and great views all day long. VNS

food, chef, restaurant, cuisine, culinary, delicacy, dining
COOL SPOT: Ma Xó is shrouded in greenery. Photo courtesy of Ma Xó

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