A small terrace wrapped with filigree bamboo leaves and creepers keeps a roaring city at bay. Inside, past wicker tables and dappled lantern light, lies a little bar shrouded in soft darkness.

Xuxu is a small, tall room. Its walls are wrapped in delicate fabrics and papers and stained with a pale fog of watercolour. Within this soft vessel float planes of smoky onyx, waxed timber, raw brass, honeyed leather and the glittering shards of a hundred shattered blue porcelain plates. We wanted to assemble here a salon electrified by real intimacy; a grown-up place, full of smoky sensuality and beautiful tragedy. We talked a lot about Vietnam, China, and the covert pornography of orientalist painting.

Nothing here is ‘off the shelf’: every element of this room is crafted or subverted in the pursuit of integrity and a particularly gentle delight. Xuxu is a salon shaped from the care of the artisans who crafted it, energised by the intensity of its occupation, and made gracious by the elegance and efficiency of its staff. It is a tiny room planned down to the teaspoon, where an entire kitchen, bar and washroom fit in the left-over space under a stair.

This is our second project for these young, energetic restaurateurs. The first, Cafe Hanoi, sits across the road, bursting at its carefully frayed seams. Xuxu is Hanoi’s little sister, happiest in its shadow. It seats a handful of people at its little round tables, serves small plates of Banh-mi and pork with lemongrass, and dispenses smoky cocktails spiced with exotic fruit or delicate pickles. A beautiful woman will seat you, and a charming man will pour your drink in a slipper glass. It will feel like dusk.

36 Hours in Auckland — NY Times

Photography by Jeremy Toth