The building which Mockingbird calls home is on Ton That Dam and was built in the 19th century. It used to be a residential block but has now been turned into a space for a number of artsy cafés and stores. The entrance to the building may seem a bit shady as you are welcomed by fuse boxes and electric wires on your left, and an old staircase on the other side. To help the patrons and newcomers, a handmade directory of the stores and cafés in the building is found on the right side of the staircase.
Comfort and Simplicity
The three owners of Mockingbird Café come from different backgrounds. Dong Lam Thanh Tung is an urban planner. Co-owner Duong Ngoc Thuy has worked in the education and PR industries, while Pham Thi Anh Phuc is an interior designer. They mashed their ideas, and together with their love of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, they created their first and only café in Saigon. “We don’t have other branches because we want to focus on this one. We want to sell a good atmosphere to our customers.”
The café entrance is quite dim, only lit by fairy lights with a bit of natural light coming from the balcony. On the right, there’s a shelf filled with a collection of handmade paper action figures and old CDs; on the left is the café bar. The walls seemed unfinished yet the effect goes well with the overall atmosphere. It is also accented with wooden frames and some calligraphy work written in chalk made by Tung. Right past the bar and just before the door to the balcony is a corner with a small round table and woven benches that double up as containers. The wall is also plastered with pages from old books.
Walk a bit further to your right and you’ll reach the main seating area of the café which sits in complete contrast to the entrance. This main area is bright as it has a wide glass window giving you a view of the buildings nearby and the Saigon River. Tables and chairs are mismatched, adding to the vintage vibe.
The café celebrates Vietnamese-style coffee. Thuy’s personal favourite is their version of ca phe sua da, which is sweeter if compared to other cafés and costs VND40,000. If you want something stronger, then get their ca phe da for VND37,000. Their often-photographed drink is the coffee with ice cream, which is a ca phe sua da topped with coconut ice cream. This drink and dessert in one is both eye candy and a thirst quencher; it goes for VND60,000. These drinks are best paired with a cake, like passion fruit cheesecake, tiramisu, Oreo mousse, and green tea mousse, which are priced at VND40,000 for a slice.
One of the first establishments opened in the building and one of the longest running, Mockingbird Café is well known by students and workers. They have hot or iced fruit teas and juices that are priced from VND45,000 to VND60,000, and yoghurt mixed drinks which can cost from VND50,000 to VND60,000. Office workers also swing by before or after dinner for a nightcap and to enjoy some cocktails that are priced from VND65,000. If you can’t decide between coffee or liquor, you can try their coffee with rum for VND55,000 or the coffee with Baileys for VND60,000.
There are no elevators in the building, and it may be quite a workout getting up the stairs, but once you arrive at Mockingbird Café you will feel that it’s worth it. It can be a hideout for those who want to get some work done or enjoy some alone time, as well as a great meeting place.
Mockingbird Café is at 4th Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, HCMC and is open from 9am to 11pm. For more info visit facebook.com/mockingbirdcoffee
Photos by Mike Palumbo