About Green Mango
It was while working in Bangkok that Vietnamese chef Nguyen Thanh Hai heard about the lack of quality restaurants on Cat Ba, a small island situated in World Heritage site Ha Long Bay in north Vietnam.
Speaking to a friend convinced him to visit the island and take a look himself. Hiring motorbikes to make the trip from Hanoi and then catching the ferry from Hai Phong, he said the island captured his heart from the moment he arrived.
“When we first pulled into port I thought of Hong Kong, with the harbour area, the water, and the hills behind,” Mr Nguyen said.
“Cat Ba is in such a beautiful area – Ha Long bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.
“The island is also a national park, offering swimming at beautiful beaches and hiking in the mountains.
“It was just calling out to have a restaurant that delivered a high-level dining experience, especially as more and more people choose to stay in Cat Ba – either visiting for a few days or during Ha Long bay cruises.”
Excited and inspired by the chance to open a restaurant on the island, Mr Nugyen immediately organised to meet with the owner of a building he had spotted during his visit. As it turns out, the owner was his next door neighbour in Hanoi, making property negotiations more than easy. That was during late April 2004.
Within 20 days of signing the lease he had renovated – he took charge of the kitchen area and his partner Duong Hong Hanh designed and decorated front of house – and the restaurant doors were opened.
“That was a very exciting and busy time for us,” Mr Nguyen said.
“It was great watching our ideas become reality. And it all fell into place just as we imagined, like it was meant to be.
"We had our official opening on July 22, 2004 and it's been a date to celebrate ever since."
The Green Mango is found nestled among a row of restaurants overlooking Cat Ba harbour.
Diners can choose to sit outside and enjoy the harbor view, or immerse themselves in the ambient indoor setting, with warm lighting, walls splashed with deep red, and tables, booths and lounge seating to choose from.
Mr Nguyen describes the menu as "fusion" food – a combination of Western and Vietnamese – with an offer of tapas tastings, mouth-watering main meals and delectable deserts.
“We draw from French and Vietnamese cooking techniques,” the chef/owner said.
“And our food is all MSG (monosodium glutamate) free – which is quite a unique change from so much of the food served up in Vietnam.
“I also encourage my staff to make sure the food is presented beautifully but differently, every time.
“I teach them presentation styles, and then they can use their own creativity from there.”
Aside from the food, the restaurant offers a great selection of wine. And the staff are more than willing to assist in matching wine with food to further tantalise the palate.
“Our idea was to always offer the ultimate dining experience… in Vietnamese there is a word we use that translates to “sexy”.
"It’s not just about the food and the wine, but the service, the surrounds – everything.
"We also follow the slogan "never let the restaurant close" so we cater to whatever our customer wants. Whether the come for breakfast, lunch or dinner - they can stay as long as they like. We like people to relax and enjoy as much as possible."
Green Mango restaurant is open 7-days a week, from 6.30am - last customer.