There’s a type of coffee shop that we don’t typically cover in this space, because they don’t usually have good Italian coffee, or any Italian coffee at all.

Led by a waiter, we crept up to the second floor through narrow and winding stairs; stairs that revealed a small terrace bordered by greenery, doors and other mysterious pathways. Despite the temptation to sit on the sunlit balcony, we opted to settle down inside, having originally come here to seek shelter from the heat.

As you walk in Cakes & Ale, you are hit by the 1950s colour palette and Jacques Brel playing over the speakers. Metal fan wind rustles the beaded stork curtain, and a blissed-out dog and cat clack along the tile floors.

If you’re after decent coffee, blizzard-strength air-conditioning and a trendy interior that looks like the set of a television dating show, The Café may be the perfect choice for you.

If you’re not too fussed about drink quality and you’re craving vibrant, comfortable spaces to break up the monotony of your weekly pilgrimage to Cong Ca Phe, there’s no going past Hoa 10 Gio.

As this is our “Favourite Things” issue, I thought that the quaint yet delightful Startup Café should go in here. I’ve been frequenting the Dinh Tien Hoang branch since it was “Startup Coffee”, and I have a strange yet intense attraction to it.

When people ask me where to go for baked desserts — commonly understood to mean cakes, slices, macaroons and general deliciousness — I usually rattle off the same list.

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