Ok, never done a review before, so I'll do my best.
Traveller Status/Disclaimer: Married with two kids under 10 in tow.
I'll start by saying I was disappointed.
Not 'sit there and pout the whole time and plot my nasty Facebook review' disappointed, but more 'man, this should be so much better!' type disappointed.
We'd spent the vast majority of our time in Ho Chi Minh City in areas and places that didn't really cater for the Western tourist (which I'd enjoyed by the way), so when I dragged down here in 38c I'd expected from what is seen on the outside and from the location, to get a really 'easy' experience with exciting beer, familiar food and Western style service. You know the type of service you despise when you arrive on another continent when you get it, but after two weeks in Asia with a young family you crave if just for a couple of hours?
I'd walked past the Lion brewery earlier in the day, and I must admit I didn't really know howuch of this little 'precinct' was the brewery and how much was neighbouring restaurants - but I didn't care. The remnants of last night's BBQ grill and chalkboard menu out the front won me over. So I'd secretly plotted our return that evening at that point.
So anyway, we arrived that night and I quickly realised that the 'precinct' was actually a Korean restaurant (which the BBQ grill belonged to), a Japanese restaurant and the Lion brewery - it wasn't just the brewery. Though I was privately disappointed that the BBQ was off the cards, I was still keen to get inside and see what the brewery would deliver in the short timeframe I knew I had before the kids got tired and turned feral.
We were shown inside to a table in a massive hall by a local girl dressed in a German wench style costume. It was quite hot inside and the booth we were in had seen entry of fat Western bums - it was rickety and had a deep 'bum groove' in the end I sat at! But whatever, I wasn't here for luxury! You need to remember sometimes when writing, and reading these reviews that holidays to places such as HCMC are cheap and you can't get too prescious!
The place is huge and has a feel somewhere between a beer hall in Munich and a buffet room at the Moama Bowling Club. The huge brass brewing vats give it the feeling of the former, the bain maries lining the bar area and the apparent jack of soul give it the latter.
So we were served by a friendly young local guy whose English wasn't great (not a criticism, just an observation) and things got under way pretty easily. We ordered a 1ltr dark beer and 300ml blonde, both of the house brew and some drinks got the kids. Whilst we were at it, we knocked the kids' food orders on the head too. You know, safe stuff. Deep fried and familiar. Keep them occupied for 30 minutes whilst mum and dad sip a beer and pretend we're relaxed.
There were only about 6 other people on the whole place, and I genuinely think we were out numbered by staff. I counted 4 girls in wench costumes, and 3 dudes in more serious outfits (yellow polo shirts). To be fair, the drinks came out almost immediately - except for my 1lt dark beer. I don't know why, but I watched from a distance, the Vietnamese beer wench pour it, then just leave it sitting on the bar for about 10 minutes! I nearly got up and went over and grabbed it myself! Not sure what the delay was with mine to be honest but when it finally did arrive I was very pleased. And the kids' good arrived at the same time which seemed very fast (although oddly my beer seemed to take an eternity).
The beer was great. I'm pretty keen on my beer. And although I've never sent one back in disgust - I'm reasonably fussy. But this was great. The wife loved hers too.
The food was average. The fries were over cooked and very greasy. And the spring rolls ditto. They tasted quite nice but deadset the one wet wipe each we were given wasn't enough to mop up the oil from our fingers. My 1lt beer much nearly slipped out if my hand more than once after after lunching a spring roll from my 6yo's plate. Maybe that's karma for me being greedy? Having said that, the kids didn't really complain.
So whilst we were having a beer and the kids were eating their dinner, so unimpressed were we by the food, and the fact that there were still only about 6 of us in the entire joint, we decided to skip our own dinner and head off somewhere else to eat.
The food, though to be fair we only tasted the spring rolls, fries and garlic bread, was very average and the atmosphere was dull.
And when we finally got someone's attention to get us the bill, we ended up having to head to the front counter to fix it up as they never actually came back to our table to give us the bill.
My feeling of disappoinmt was exacerbated as we left and walked out the front to be greeted by the cool little precinct of the Korean grill and Japanese restaurant with music pumping and clearly, far more atmosphere and action going in outside than there was inside!
Would I go back? No.
The beer was great, but so was the 50 cent can of Saigon Special I bought at the supermarket the next day.
It was a Western style place, that didn't bring the Western style goodness with it - and made no attempt to add any local influence (aside of course from the standard local part of the menu).
If I wanted Western brewery or Europen or beer house style, I didn't get it. And if I wanted Vietnamese cafe and local hospitality I certainly didn't get it.
But gee I would have liked to try that Korean style BBQ grill they had set up out the front!
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