by Gia Linh
The rising trend of ‘café hopping’, visiting more than one café during a single outing, has resulted in the omnipresence of many ‘instagrammable’ cafés. The Vagabond Patisserie & Cafe in HCM City’s District 1’s Trần Cao Vân Street is one such venue, well-known among cafe-goers and sweets-lovers for their meticulously made seasonal cakes and drinks.
The word ‘vagabond’ is a nod to the owners’ philosophy of running their business outside traditional frameworks.
QUAINT: The Vagabond in 9 Trần Cao Vân Street in HCM City’s District 1 is famous for its beautiful decor and tasty cakes. – VNS Photo Gia Linh
I got to know The Vagabond through their advertisement on Instagram, and was completely taken by how pretty their cakes are. Seeing the pictures, reading the captions, and knowing that they made their pâtisserie from scratch stirred my curiosity.
I could not wait to see this café, especially as I love baking. With two of my like-minded besties, we planned a date immediately.
Upon arrival, we were immediately awed by how it looked on the outside, an old world European concept with black-and-white exterior designs, an entrance filled with various plants, and decorations creating a mysterious, cozy atmosphere.
It was lively inside, but not too busy; jazzy 90s’ music was playing in the background. The staff were attentive, quickly setting up a table for us.
The interior had an antique, vintage theme: yellow lights, wooden tables and chairs, a floor-to-ceiling old bookshelf; it felt like a European café in the 80s.
Once we scanned through the menu, we were completely invested in the place. There are dozens of options, from desserts to coffee, tea, and even homemade ice-cream. We took a long time choosing, and ended up with three ‘no-baked’ cakes and two icy drinks.
The order came in no time, and the plating was perfect. We took tons of pictures, amazed by how beautiful the dishes looked, not wanting to ruin them.
After planning what order we should try the cakes (from the mildest to strongest), we tried the mango and Yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) mille crêpe first. The aroma from the Yuzu hit us on the tip of our tongues, fresh and citrusy. The combination between the rich cream, tangy hint of Yuzu and mango, and soft, light crêpe layers was so refreshing.
Since it was cherry season, we could not skip the Souvie on the menu, a ‘cherry-bomb’ full of complex components, textures and flavours.
It was covered in a paper-thin layer of berry-flavoured chocolate, and on top was glossy marmalade made of cherry chunks. The inside was a work of art, with cocoa sponge-cake at the bottom, then a layer of chocolate mousse, cherry compote, and a third layer of cherry-infused cream cheese on top. The components worked together amazingly. The hint of chocolate recognizably enhanced the natural, sweet cherry flavour.
CAKE OFF: The Vagabond seasonal cakes are visually satisfying and taste amazing. – VNS Photo Gia Linh
Setting the cakes aside, we headed for our drinks, starting off with the cherry berry kumquat tea. While we did find the tea refreshing with the taste of cherries and kumquat, and it would pair decently with creamy, heavy cakes, it was just a bit on the bland side.
Contrary to the tea, we could not stop drinking the oat milk with brown sugar toddy palm, which more than lived up to our expectations. The milk was creamy, nutty, the sugar syrup added a hint of sweet, caramelising taste, and the brown-sugar coated toddy palms were chewy. We think we even prefer this one over traditional milk tea!
DELIGHTFUL DRINK: The nutty oat milk with caramelised brown sugar
toddy palms was an addicting drink. – VNS Photo Gia Linh
We finished off with a Greenerie, our last cake. According to the menu, this one contained a trio of pistachio, cherry, and matcha (a rather peculiar combination). At the bottom was a thin layer of Kyoto matcha sponge cake, on top was again the cherry compote, and finally, there was the pistachio cream. The matcha taste did not overpower the other flavours, and I especially loved the sheer nuttiness of the pistachio cream. It was my favourite cake of the three.
We sat and talked for hours, enjoying the last bit of everything. Nothing was overly sweet, and portion sizes were just enough.
Items on the menu range from VNĐ80,000 to 180,000, and our bill came to around VNĐ660,000 (US$28), a great deal for the superb cakes and drinks.
The Vagabond also has another branch at 118 Hà Huy Tập Street, District 7.
With great service, beautiful decorations, and top-tier cakes and drinks, I highly recommend The Vagabond to those who want to have a unique café outing. VNS
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