There’s an alleyway full of parked motorbikes, all lined up like they’re for sale, and a crouching woman near the entrance selling something deep-fried and therefore unidentifiable; it’s like any other alleyway in Hanoi except that there’s a sign above the archway that says ‘Cine’.
It’s chucking it down, heavy, fat rain that bounces off your head and makes you feel angry if you stand still in it for too long so we start to walk down the alleyway. It opens into a small courtyard where small children are splashing in puddles and I wonder if we’re in someone’s back garden, but then more bikes and a gateway with hanging trees overgrowing all around like a secret, abandoned place.
It’s a café that opens up into a restaurant that operates alongside an independent cinema and it seems I’ve found my favourite place in Hanoi.
The café-restaurant is all red velvet, candles, dark wood, piano music and film posters, all that a cinema café should be. There are giant plants everywhere that I don’t know the name of because I’m not quite old enough to know things like that yet, but I do know the Mojito I order is full of Vietnamese mint.
It’s surreal, it’s too quiet for Hanoi, too sedate, it feels like we’re somewhere we shouldn’t be and my plastic mac is definitely not appropriate attire. It is members only but they make an exception for enthusiastic tourists and let us have tickets to watch Inherent Vice. We return a few days later and again they oblige, this time with tickets for Nighcrawler. If we turn up for Birdman tonight I doubt they’ll turn us away.