I have a well known penchant for Vietnamese food. My absolute favourite are summer rolls. I like to go to any of the family run Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road (all quite similar in quality, potentially owned by the same person as per Chinatown), or Mare Street in Hackney. I’ve been to most of them: Cay Tre, Green Papaya, Mien Tay and Song Que to name a few. I fear that in London we are being given a bastardised version of real Vietnamese food: akin to the tikka massalas and katsu curries so popular amongst Brits.
More summer rolls at Tre Viet. With a questionable dollop of sriracha in the dipping sauce. Summer rolls are, for those unlucky few who haven’t tried them, prawns/meat/vegetables with rice noodles and leafs (the good ones have lots of coriander, mint, thai basil etc.) wrapped in rice paper. They solve the conundrum of being both light and healthy but still managing to fill you up.
I am not the biggest fan of Pho (yes, pronounced fuh) – chain restaurant not the dish. It allows you to get your vietnamese fix in places like Soho and Westfield, where vietnamese families would never venture, but I feel it is lacking some authenticity. Also I prefer the typical unfriendly Vietnamese service where they just give you your food and don’t try and be your friend.
The good thing about chain restaurants is you can expect the food to be of a similar quality each time you visit. I always get Pho Tom and I know it will always taste good. After a bowl of 350 calorie vegetable broth with some herbs, you feel fit to burst. I always appreciate the post-pho-piss.
For my birthday meal, after much pondering, I decided to go for a Vietnamese restaurant. I went with Tay Do, purely because it was advertised as BYOB.
I ordered prawn summer rolls (of course) and this prawn vietnamese salad. The restaurant was heaving (Friday night in Shoreditch, what do you expect) but I was happy to see they’d reserved my table for 11 people after some confusion. BYOB is brilliant as it keeps everyone happy and the bill down.