Propped up along the corner of Le Duan and Tran Hung Dao, Typograf is a comfortable hub for creativity and expression. The room itself is a large open space; it looks like a barn converted into an old speakeasy. Plants and artwork hang from the walls. The floor space is busy with little square tables set out to provide an unblocked viewing of the stage, the centrepiece of the room. Standing on the stage is a drum kit, a piano and a microphone stand under a red-brick backdrop decorated with heavy neon letters that read You Are What You Listen To.
The first time I walked through that door I was surprised to stumble upon a collective painting session. The square tables were lined up in two rows, each with an artist occupying a canvas. Some two dozen artists were painting the same scene, coordinated by the painter of the original work.
These painting sessions take place every Sunday from morning until evening for a VND400,000 fee.
You Are What You Listen To
Once the paintings were finished, and the artists had posed for pictures with their newest works, the tables were rearranged linearly to face the stage and a drummer began his sound check. A rattling chorus of drum beats filled the room for five minutes. A group of girls hurried on to the stage to the piano and began quietly practising classical melodies.
Typograf is part of an emerging group of bars and cafés that host free live music daily. From 9pm the lights are dimmed and the floor is overtaken by eager ears tuned in for a session of jazz and acoustic music from some of Hanoi’s finest young talent.
During my last visit the stage was graced by a five-piece outfit including a pianist, a saxophonist, a guitarist and a drummer, who opened with an instrumental jazz cover of Zombie by The Cranberries.
During weekday afternoons, Typograf is an ideal workspace for the creative digital nomad to get work done in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Plug sockets are conveniently placed around the floor to cater for techies and in the daytime the music is kept at a non-intrusive background volume.
Whether working alone at one of the wooden coffee tables or meeting friends and colleagues in one of three sofa booths, you can find comfort and inspiration from the artistic and homely decoration.
The drinks menu is impressive. A diverse range of flavoured hot fruit tea for VND59,000 or a ‘Colour of Love’ soda mix for VND69,000 will help you to relax in the afternoon.
During the later hours, when the atmosphere gears towards jazz, you can sit back with a whisky sour or any other of a good size selection of cocktails for VND80,000.
Typograf is just another example of Hanoi’s unrivalled café scene. It has enough space to cater for groups of friends who want to catch up over a coffee while not disturbing those who are looking for a space to set up a laptop and get some work done.
The added cream on top is its lively jazz and acoustic sessions that take over the atmosphere every night of the week.
Typograf Café is located at 99 Le Duan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, opposite the Hanoi Train Station. On their Facebook page they post in detail about daily live music and other events. Photos by Boris Lopatin