The 1,300-square-metre garden of the Y Thao garden house was constructed fifty years ago, but the house is comparatively modern. The owner has maintained the integrity of most of the garden and added some distinctive elements, notably a traditional dining room and two interesting antique collections.
The centrepiece of the garden is a large stone rockwork serving the dual purpose of a symbolic mountain and acting as a wind-screen. On the left-hand side of the garden, a smaller rockwork is arranged on a theme of the Green Dragon, the Chinese symbol, and to the right, the White Tiger rockwork symbolises the East. The latter has been recently subsumed into a new development including a small water garden, (complete with an invisible, but highly voluble, frog) and a small dining room designed as a triple bay traditional house.
Elsewhere five more rockworks on and around the lawn symbolise the five famous mountains of the East. They are surrounded by a carefully chosen collection of trees, carefully nurtured by the owner.
Inside the Y Thao garden house are two collections including good examples of Hue’s fine artwork. One contains around two hundred blue ceramics produced during the reign of Le-Trinh King, a Nguyen Lord who lived over three hundred years ago. The various plates, bowls and other utensils are arranged in two sections, those used by the Royal Family, and those used by the mandarins. Their antique appearance and dynastic titles written in Chinese characters and demotic Vietnamese script are impressive.
The second collection displays traditional Hue mirror painting. The artworks include paintings inlaid with nacre, portraits of princesses, scenes from classical drama, and many more.
However, for most of our guests, the main attraction Y Thao garden house is the vegetarian and non-vegetarian Hue speciality dishes. The owner is a skilled cook, so the food is very good, and her recipes have ben handed down through the family. She includes at least one of the Hue ‘Royal’ dishes in the menu. The quality of service matches that of the food.
There are two dining areas, a covered patio area next to the lawn, and the new dining room on the other side of the house. For us, there was no contest. The small dining room, elevated above garden level is a joy. Elegantly fashioned in ironwood and other traditional materials, it overlooks the garden, and a small balcony stands just above the water garden. The quiet, broken only by the gentle trickle of water and the occasional frog croak, made us want to hold our breath and hope that the meal would take a long time to arrive.
Towards the end of the meal, a small vase of shiny plastic miniature fruits on stalks appeared – a lapse of good taste, we thought. Wrong! They were a work of art fashioned in green bean paste, very sweet, but definitely more-ish.
The Y Thao is an ideal place for lunch or dinner: good food, a congenial host, and an unhurried meal in an attractive setting. Include the garden, ceramics and artworks, and you can see why we add it to our Hue itineraries.