Van / Van

Hanoi Cafe | 18y

Van Tran and Van Le have been best friends since they were 13. They left their home in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1979 as boat people and lived in various towns in England over the years, from Newcastle to Wolverhampton. After hearing about a thriving Vietnamese community in London, they moved here in 1986 and worked in the garment factory trade.

Around the same time as jobs were drying up and factories relocating abroad, Van Tran’s daughter Hai left a banking career and set up Hanoi Cafe in the heart of Shoreditch in 2000.

Van and Van have been there ever since, helping out front of house or buying fresh herbs from the local Ridley Road market. There are around ten Vietnamese restaurants in the area and the community sticks together, catching up on the way to and from work every day.

The area has changed hugely in the past 15 years or so, with new businesses, buildings and a younger, wealthier and more fashionable crowd emerging. They say the area feels safer and there are a lot more international diners coming through their doors, especially French, Italians and Spanish people.

They’ve seen young couples over the years who married and now bring their children to the restaurant. Many customers call them mum.