Another month, another group of triumphant local restaurateurs gets to wear the iconic red scarves reserved for the winners of Asia’s 50 Best awards. Hot on the heels of Anan Saigon making a splash with its inclusion into Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants, three more Vietnam venues, Summer Experiment (77), Hybrid in Nha Trang (96) and Ne Cocktail Bar in Hanoi (76) land on the extended list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021 — first ever Vietnam representatives to receive the honor.
The surprising (and welcome) move by the organizers to make this year’s award more inclusive means that a higher number of deserving venues got the spotlight in a series of pre-events, such as the list of bars rated between 51st and 100th.
Founded in 2019 by Jay Moir and Annie Vu, the Aussie duo behind the uber-popular Layla Eatery & Bar, Summer Experiment occupies the second floor of an artfully dilapidated heritage building a stone’s throw from the iconic Bến Thành Market. Built around Jay’s and Annie’s idiosyncratic "garden craft” philosophy, the bar is known for its playful menu and behind-the-bar theatrics. Underlying the histrionics is a solid foundation of clever in-house recycling practices, ethically sourced ingredients and a farm-to-bar ethos.
“We are delighted to be able to contribute to elevating Vietnam’s bar scene and setting it in the right direction,” says Jay. Winning the prestigious award "is a huge drive to continually strive forward" and a big step forward on a journey of building a world-class bar industry by, among other things, providing training opportunities for the next generation of Vietnamese bartenders.
Vietcetera had a chat with Jay and Annie right before their win was announced on April 29.
Congratulations, guys! A huge milestone for Vietnam. What are you toasting the win with?
Thank you for the awesome support! It’s such an amazing achievement for the team, especially with recent events that unfolded around the world we’ve all been facing. It’s a wonderful breath of fresh air to be toasting the achievement with champagne flowing!
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Why do you think it was the Summer Experiment and not your other super successful creation, Layla, that got into Asia’s 50 Best sights first? What are you doing differently here?
You’ll have to be the judge of that one. We’re just so grateful for the recognition that Vietnam has finally received in the bar scene. There are so many well-deserving bars here in Vietnam and we can’t wait to see them make the list too.
With the award in the pocket, is the team taking a well-deserved break or doubling down to push even harder to take Saigon’s bar scene to the next level?
As they say, no rest for the wicked! It looks like a massive year ahead of us. We’ll be striving forward to give Summer Experiment customers the best experience possible, along with expanding our farm-to-bar/garden-to-glass approach. In the coming months, we’re delighted to announce that we will be sharing our love of garden craft around Vietnam with many terrific collaborations in the pipeline.
What does the shout-out from Asia's 50 Best team mean for Vietnam’s mixology scene as a whole?
We’re super excited for the scene in Vietnam. This is just the beginning and a taste of great things to come. The possibilities in terms of elevating the drink scene experience are endless. Not to mention the awesome talent here in Vietnam: our master mixologists are ready to steal the world’s limelight! And, touch wood, once borders re-open for tourism, it’s going to be a game changer.
With Anan bagging a win for Vietnam with Asia's 50 Best Restaurants and now Summer Experiment on the extended best bar list, how can Vietnam’s F&B industry best capitalize on the momentum?
It greatly shows the potential for the Vietnamese market, and the wheels have begun to turn with international focus picking up on Vietnam. The market has the feel of a “new kid on the block” as local venues are being newly discovered. We are now a hot spot in the international F&B scene, with a potential to become trend-setters. For us all to blow this out the water, we will need to drive collaborations in the scene, showcasing the crème de la crème of Vietnam’s talent. Last but not least, working on great partnerships with the tourism board of Vietnam.