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This curious hybrid bar-gallery epitomizes so many aspects of Richie Fawcett’s admiration for the city. Even the balcony overlooking the historic street corner holds a significance – simply watching passers-by in every corner of the city inspired him to create his book and his bar. Inside, classic white walls create a gallery space for Richie’s black and white sketches. Step in further to be surprised by a floor to ceiling panorama of the city. Walk through an invisible door cut into the picture, as if to enter Old Saigon by stepping through a frame. The bar area, in contrast to the gallery, is an intimate and cosy awakening of sensations.
Enter through another door to an area which serves as Richie’s storage for traditional oriental herbals. It is decorated with tones of grey, warm orange and silver. Curios and ornaments which he has sourced from local antique markets are displayed on the many shelves. They include a collection of balance scales, which are also a symbol in his book to indicate the taste balance of the cocktails. The array of local herbs in the drawers are used in cocktails from the book and for bespoke omakaze creations by Richie.
Sink into leather sofas and armchairs next to the fire and enjoy one of the cocktails from the menu, inspired by the country. As if you were in a private lounge, the open bar is like a bar in reverse. The open cabinet gives the impression you are sitting amidst the action, in the same way as at a chef’s table in a fascinating, skilled kitchen. With an additional drinks trolley for table side mixing, the mood recalls old Saigon during the height of colonial French rule, when it really was called the Pearl of the Orient. From there, double doors open onto an intimate balcony. In early evening, as the heat of the day subsides, the sounds of the street echo into the room. The imagination drifts into the night, as calls from streets sellers grow fainter as they move past.
British bartender-artist Richie Fawcett has opened his first bar in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The Studio Saigon is unconventionally part bar and part art gallery, displaying his intricate fine artworks of landmark streets, districts and bustling markets. Fast gaining a reputation in the city, Richie has won the Cultural Department of Vietnam’s first official authorization for depicting the country’s history in this way. His bar The Studio serves original cocktails named after streets and personalities – both respected and notorious. The drinks are finely styled and garnished, reflecting Richie’s eye for detail as both artist and inventive mixologist, with a passion to place Vietnam on the international cocktail map.
The ideal time to visit The Studio Saigon is late afternoon. View the gallery, enjoy the balcony and sip a signature cocktail whilst watching the fascinating frenzy of the street life below. With the shade of its own Tamarind tree and surrounded by Bonsai trees, it is an oasis of calm in the heart of the city. It is located in the heart of downtown Old Saigon on the first floor of a 1930s residential block. Find the hidden entrance that is used as a motorbike parking hall. The bar’s interior styling by Richie is one of artistic contrasts, with a cool, soothing ambience alongside comfortable seating at just two tables, and antique ornaments and curiosities. The Studio brings to life cocktails and illustrations from Richie’s newly launched book Cocktail Art of Saigon featuring 41 original recipes.
Richie moved to Vietnam in 2011. After setting up numerous bars in the country, he progressed to manage the city’s first rooftop destination, Shri Restaurant and Lounge, where he helped pioneer inventive mixology in the city. As a talented photographer and fine artist, he was inspired by exotic corners of old Saigon to create a portfolio of pen drawings. His book Cocktail Art of Saigon draws ideas from the culture and idiosyncrasy of the streets and its characters.