Lucky guests at an exclusive afternoon tea at The Reverie Saigon’s opulent Café Cardinal recently, had good reason to be excused for spontaneously drooling at their tables throughout the day.

The afternoon tea was an exciting collaboration between internationally renowned Australian fashion designer Betty Tran and her compatriot, the much-adored chef, Luke Nguyen.

The first bout of drooling got underway as waitstaff began placing Luke’s three-tiers of deliciousness under the noses of guests.

His special afternoon tea set drew inspiration from classic Vietnamese flavours, using the best of local and imported ingredients, all served up with a modern twist.

 
 
 
 
 
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The combination of savoury and sweet items included delights such as foie gras crispy spring rolls and the cute and clever king crab and Iberico pork banh khot.

Banh khot is, of course, those famous crispy and savoury bite-size ‘pancakey’ discs that you come across in beachside towns like Vung Tau about 100km southeast of Saigon.

They are typically made with rice flour, added turmeric that gives them a yellow tinge, and a splash of coconut milk just to remind you that you’re holed up in the tropics.

Precariously perched on top is usually a prawn tail or in some cases, as in Vung Tau, pieces of freshly caught squid. They really do taste like a mouthful of the ocean but with the added bonus that they don’t come with the sand.

Other curiosities on the menu were pandan-infused marshmellows and Vietnamese coffee cheesecake, while other glutinous little goodies sat alongside delectable pastries, including scones, jam and cream.

 
 
 
 
 
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All this was served up with imported Dammann Freres teas, champagne and sparkling wine.

As guests contemplated readjusting their attire to accommodate Luke’s stunning creations, it was Betty Tran’s turn to get everyone salivating again.

Life can be cruel sometimes.

While guests had spent the past hour or so stuffing their faces and soaking themselves in some of the best bubbly going round, they were soon jolted back to reality when Betty’s stunning troupe entered the fray and reminded us why sweets and desserts are called “guilty” pleasures.

Betty’s models wearing creations by Artisoul The Label and Gen C Studios, descended the winding grand staircase into Cafe Cardinal where they were greeted by an appreciative audience that clearly liked what they saw.

Led by designer Khoi Nguyen, Artisoul The Label specialises in men’s and women’s ready-to-wear fashion, footwear, accessories and denim.

 
 
 
 
 
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Meanwhile, Gen C Studios is headed up by MT Nguyen (Tuan Nguyen) who creates men’s and women’s ready-to-wear fashion and accessories.

The fashion parade demonstrated the immense design talent Vietnam is producing at the moment, and those lucky enough to be in attendance were able to witness it close up as the models sashayed within arm’s reach among the tables.

If you want to get your hands on any of the creations featured in the fashion show or to simply find out more, get in touch via https://bettytranconsultants.com/

And, Luke’s incredible afternoon tea menu will be available at Café Cardinal for two months.

Scones, people. Scones with jam and cream!

Words by Matthew Cowan. Follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon

[Scroll down to view photos of the event]

About Betty Tran and Betty Tran Consultants

Betty Tran is a fashion, retail and lifestyle consultant. Betty has had over 15 years of experience and has evolved in all facets of the fashion industry from being a sale consultant in the early days of her career to launching her own global fashion brand as a fashion designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Migrating to Australia from Vietnam at the age of fourteen, Betty’s love of fashion was born helping her mother, a talented seamstress, manufacture garments for numerous international and Australian fashion labels.

Betty Tran is founder and CEO of Betty Tran Consultants – a full-service corporate strategy and creative practice, specialising in Fashion & Lifestyle, Retail, Real Estate and Technology.

They partner with leaders and organisations to create products and programs that shape the intersections between brand and consumer to company and investor.

Betty Tran Consultants help leaders transform their companies into sustainable and successful companies that make a difference.

About Luke Nguyen

With an endless series of accomplishments under his belt, Australia-born Vietnamese celebrity chef Luke Nguyen has made quite the name for himself over his culinary career.

At only 23, Luke realised his dreams by opening his first restaurant, the critically acclaimed Red Lantern in 2002. Luke is also the man behind the much-loved Fat Noodle, an Asian noodle bar concept at The Star in Pyrmont Sydney as well as in Brisbane.

Luke is the author of four bestselling and award-winning cookbooks, Secrets of the Red Lantern, the Songs of Sapa, Indochine and Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong.

Luke was inducted into the Sydney Morning Herald’s Food Hall of Fame for his cooking and travel programs, Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam and Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong which is televised in 150 countries.

He is judge and host for the first series of MasterChef Vietnam, 2013, and has appeared in Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape, MasterChef Australia and Destination Flavour.

Luke has currently led WMC Group’s flagship restaurant, Vietnam House –the contemporary Vietnamese fine dining restaurant.