Saigon in the early evening is a hive of activity. Food vendors set up their carts, cars, buses and bikes zoom up and down the streets as the sun begins to set. Where better to take in the sunset than on a roof overlooking the city with a cocktail in hand? We headed to Banana Mama at the WMC Tower to do exactly that.
Normally rooftop locations promise much and deliver little. Think Lebua in Bangkok as a prime example. With that in mind, we arrived at the WMC Tower in trepidation as well as anticipation. A quick journey up to the roof in the lift and all was to be revealed.
The staff greeted us and instantly gave a relaxed and friendly impression. “Please, sit where you like” was the order of the night. This was a long way away from the “herding cattle” approach that many rooftop bars operate, a thoroughly welcome change. We took up position on the perimeter of the bar with a flawless view across the city.
Another feature of a rooftop bar, a characteristic that really defines it, is the level of the music. Here, a cool selection of tunes drifts smoothly across the airwaves. You can have a conversation and relax without needing to reach for the headache tablets.
Menu items in the food section go for 120 – 180,000 Dong (around £4-6) with the cocktails coming in at 180-220,000 Dong (around £4-7). From the tempting selection on offer, we chose a Pink Explosion and a Shisomelo. Food-wise we opted for a Smash Burger and Fried Chicken with Smoked Paprika Aioli.
With the sun slowly setting and a completely chilled out mood in full swing, all was well in our world. Our cocktails arrived looking fresh and inviting. The Pink Explosion – a mix of rose wine, elderflower, strawberry and rhubarb was the perfect nod to summer. The Shisomelo was a little more herbal with shiso leaf, gin and pomelo providing a tropical tang.
The food matched the cocktails in terms of quality also. I had heard a great deal about Smash Burgers but to actually try one was an experience. A potato bun is something that i’ve never heard of but I can confirm that it is delicious. Encased between the bun slices was a beef patty massive on flavour drenched in cheese – heavenly!
If there is one thing that Asia does well, it’s Fried Chicken. These pieces of thigh, a positive choice for juicy meat, were perfectly crunchy. The Aioli was both rich and smokey, a perfect match for the chicken. An ideal dish for a beer or cocktail while gazing at the city below.
For a relaxed experience I would highly advise arriving early. Sunset is the best time by far, especially as there is a happy hour offer on cocktails. The whole relaxed vibe around the bar and restaurant is a tranquil heaven in the full-on hectic environment that is Saigon. For us, Banana Mama ticks every box.
Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday 1700-0200