The graceful courtyard of Hotel Continental Saigon, shaded by 135-year-old frangipani trees, provided a rather attractive setting for some very competently executed renditions of local Southern Vietnamese cuisine.
Our lunch there today consisted of:
Deep-fried spring rolls with ground pork, glass noodles, carrots, shrimp and crabmeat.
Nước mắm pha - a dip consisting of fish sauce mixed with lemon juice, sugar and chillis.
Caramelised catfish with pork belly, braised in a claypot - very sweet, one of the typical features of Southern Vietnamese cooking.
A delicious combination of firm-fleshed, very fresh catfish with fatty pork-belly slivers.
Sauteed chicken with chillies and lemongrass - the dish was also rather sweet, and not very spicy despite its chilli content. The Southern Vietnamese' cuisine is not as spicy as those from Central Vietnamese culinary centres like Hue.
The courtyard provides a quiet respite from the ever-busy Dong Khoi Street outside.
Among its famous guests were Walter Cronkite, and Graham Greene, who wrote part of "The Quiet American" there - he also used the hotel as a setting in his novel.
Continental Hotel Courtyard
132-134 Dong Khoi Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 838 299 201