When most people travel they bring home a T-shirt or a tea towel — I buy a chandelier and a desk!”David Campbell, January 2015

 

Villa Royale is David Campbell’s very own antique treasure-chest. He’s the owner, chef and objet d’art collector whose by now 18-month-old adventure in Saigon is bringing back old world charm. Already popular for reinvigorating the art of the high tea, David’s laid back service and opulent residence make the ‘established-in-the-west’ concept of eating in an antique store a welcome addition to the city.

 

Tucked far enough away to achieve the sense of escape that locals crave, first timers to Villa Royale will quickly realise that the linear experience of arriving, sitting down, ordering and eating doesn’t necessarily apply.

 

When it comes to the food, there’s no doubt that Campbell is catering for a western palate here — treats you love from home. But there’s nothing so bourgeois as a menu. Instead, David makes food dependent on the best available ingredients, so to order he will physically take you through to his kitchen, past his collection of antiques, and right up to the window of his vintage bain marie.

 

There you’ll witness temptation itself. Available to order are some dangerously good desserts and slices, actively distracting you from the more savoury but no less delicious selection of filo pastries, bespoke quiches and eclectically flavoured pot pies. Making your choice here will be the hardest thing you’ll do all day.

 

The Taste Test

 

Temporarily setting aside our own early cake-lust on the day we visited, photographer Kyle goes for the lemongrass chicken and coconut cream pot pie (VND180,000), while I choose the roast chicken filo pastry with macadamia nut and truffle cream (VND190,000). The filo comes with a garden salad and altogether it’s a fresh, light, yet surprisingly filling meal. The pastry is crisp but flaky, not unlike an old friend I’ve missed. The combination of macadamia and truffle push it well beyond any filo I’ve had of late, and I finish every mouthful. Kyle echoes my satisfaction with his pot pie as we continue drinking the oxidating TWG Red of Afrika tea (VND75,000 per pot) that David has recommended.

 

Following our mains and another pot, this time the TWG Singapore Breakfast (VND75,000 per pot), we easily give in to our pre-hatched dessert plans. I spring for the passion fruit meringue (VND90,000) while Kyle opts for the Dalat strawberry cheesecake (VND90,000). Seemingly drunk on the high life we’re now living — poolside gazebos and one-off art from around the world will do that — I simply describe the rich strawberry cheesecake as ‘fluffy heaven’ and the passion fruit meringue as like ‘hoola hoops and ice cream’. Luckily I haven’t had an actual drink, though a glass of sherry or perhaps a cool martini wouldn’t be out of place right now.

 

Impressions

 

For first time visitors, Villa Royale is not an easy find. Once there, though, it easily lives up to its name and first impression, which is grand. David really is the friendly guy from his TripAdvisor reviews, and his finds from around the world are amazing.

 

However, even for those not big on antiques you’ll easily find enough reason to visit again, because his food, his teas and the sense of occasion the property delivers, will all want make you come back.

 

Not bad for a guy who came out here to retire.

 

Villa Royale is at 8 Dang Huu Pho, Thao Dien, Q2, Ho Chi Minh City

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