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Vietnamese in London

I love Vietnamese food but haven't found many great places in London. Any suggestions?

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  1. I stumbled into Cay Tre on Old St a few weeks ago, it was pretty good.

    1. Kingland Road. I like Au Lac. I like Cay Tre (as noted below) too, but it's a little dirty. Au Lac is clean.

      1. The only half way decent Vietnamese in South London I've found so far is the New Loong Kee Cafe on Camberwell Road. Pho's a bit rubbish, but wonderful chargrilled lamb and fresh as a daisy summer rolls. There's also the Saigon House on Westminster Bridge Road, but I've not tried it for quite a long time.

        Can anyone recommend other Viet places outside the Kingsland Road/Hoxton area - preferably South of the river?

        2 Replies
        1. re: SpikeyD

          The Pacific Kitchen in the William Pub, in Elephant & Castle, is pretty good. Not quite Kingsland Rd good, but worth a look if you happen to be around there. It's a bit of a backwater, on Archer Road, and not exactly the most salubrious of locations, but I've enjoyed the food I've had there. Nice pho, good prawns on sugarcane, meatballs etc: http://www.london-se1.co.uk/restauran...

          1. re: babybat

            I just spotted your response - so a belated thanks! I'll be sure to try it as soon as poss. - it's not far from my office so will pop in on the way home one night. Many thanks for the tip.

        2. I like Cay Tre too, but the last couple of meals I've had there have not been so good. I went to the Viet Grill on Kingsland Rd, after reading a recommendation on this board, and I thought it was very good, and much better than my previous couple of meals at Cay Tre. It's run by the same people, but the flavours seemed fresher and livelier somehow.

          1. Has anyone been to the Viet Garden on Liverpool Road and is it any good?

            1. I can always eat at the Viet Grill on Kingsland Road. I love it for its delicious soups and its intelligently chosen wine list. Since its been open, I must have eaten there dozens of times and although I have tried all of the others in the area, I just keep coming back for more.

              1. There's also an Au Lac on I think Blackstock Rd, or maybe Highbury Park, very good. I've been intending to visit a place on Liverpool St (Viet Garden probably). if you go, please post a report.

                1. I'm quite sure that there are Vietnamese stores and restaurants in the enormous Thai community to the north of London, but that requires a British rail trip. I'll be heading out there soon just to scout it out.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: JFores

                    Where exactly is this enormous Thai community? This is news to me.

                    1. re: oonth

                      Someone Thai that I've met told me that the largest Thai community outside of Thailand in the entire world is just north of London. I need to get the name of the area again so I can British rail myself there as a food day trip.

                      1. re: JFores

                        If that´s true, I´ll be on that same train heading up there with you. I spent most of the summer in Bangkok and that only confirmed my belief that the greater glory of Thai food is nowhere represented around the globe with the possible exception of the incomparable Sripraphai in Queens. Maybe just maybe there is a gem somewhere out there in Narniashire :-)

                  2. Pho, on St Johns, is pretty good. I like it marginally better than the Kingsland Rd place. Snazzier atmosphere, and they have baguettes, and the weasel coffee. The stock's acceptable, and comes with all the appropriate herbs, including sawtooth.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cavorting

                      I walked by this place and wondered how it is. Judgementally, I took the modern style/design as being indicative that maybe it was form over substance but your comment suggests otherwise so I will check it out when I'm next in London. I took a look at their website and am pleased to see a banh mi section, I'm not aware of there hitherto being any banh mi availability in London which is a big miss. Did you try one by any chance?


                      1. re: oonth

                        Haven't tried the banh mi yet, might do next time. I suppose it is more of a busaba-type place (deferring to Noogs), and I was put off by the trendiness as you were initially, but it uses ingredients well. The place opposite that did viet/french fusion seems to be closed. Again, not traditional, but they did a great crab-based soup (my perennial complaint is that hardly anyone does proper stocks for clear soups, whatever the cuisine). Speaking of which, if we're going down particular dishes, Viet Anh on Parkway in Camden isn't that impressive, food-wise in general, but they do one noodle dish I really like but can't remember the Viet name of, with a spicy base and pork/crabmeat.balls.

                        Deptford -- yes, another Vietamese acquaintance recommended a place there much over the Kingsland Rd places, will have to keep this Cafe East in mind if I ever get there.

                    2. Regardless of what people say, there really is only one area for Vietnamese food and it's Kingsland Road. Mare Street would be the other choice but better for Viet ingredients from the many Viet food stores. Each Viet restaurant has a specialty, therefore pho in one place is not as good as pho in another. I generally find that Song Que, Tay Do (the original one and not the copycat across the street), Cay Tre and Viet Grill are the best of the bunch on Kingsland. Growing up in a Vietnamese family and spending my life in Southern CA, I am a tough Viet foodie to please. My general comment is that Viet food in London does the trick when I need the hit (which is often) but is somewhat behind its brothers and sisters in CA, Texas and Paris. Song Que specialises in Pho and dishes from the South. I agree that Cay Tre has been slipping lately but its sister restaurant Viet Grill is still consistently good. Both Cay Tre and Viet Grill focus on Viet food from the North, with specialties such as Bun Cha and Cha Ca La Vong. Tay Do has excellent every day dishes for more of the family style type eating and I like the fact that some dishes use rice paper. I would like to mention that only go to Loong Kee Cafe for steamed rice crepes (banh cuon) as everything else is simply not up to scratch. Au Lac is clean but sub par... I don't necessarily judge a place by its cleanliness. Now I have to let everyone in on a secret. One of my favorite dish is Bun Bo Hue, spicy beef soup and there is this little dive in Deptford callled Cafe East that does a superb rendition. I go out of my way to eat here often and find that this place is the true winner for Pho and Bun Bo Hue and pretty much everything Vietnamese. Be warned, it's tiny (seats about 25) and you will find limited info doing an internet search.

                      One last word... regarding Pho in Clerkenwell. Do not eat here. It is not Viet food and tragically caters to the Western palate. If that is your thing, cool. But this restaurant really does blow and the Viet association should be stripped.

                      Hope this helps.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Noogs

                        Good, informative post, thanks for this. Do you know anywhere in London that does a worthwhile banh mi?

                        1. re: oonth

                          Have not hunted for Banh Mi but have seen it on the menu at Loong Kee. Might give it a try soon as curious now and will start looking out for it.

                        2. re: Noogs

                          I tried Viet Grill last week following the recommendations from this thread; thanks all! I liked it overall, but I know very little about Vietnamese food, so it did raise a couple of questions.

                          First of all, we paid £5 for a side dish of water spinach in garlic, which seemed quite a high price in comparison with the rest of the menu. Is water spinach a particularly expensive vegetable? I'd not had it before, and I did really like it, especially the crunchy stalks. It's just that the price seemed to be a bit of an outlier on the menu.

                          Secondly, I had the slow-cooked Mekong catfish for my main course, and although I didn't strongly dislike it, it did taste distinctly "earthy". Googing suggests that an earthy flavour in catfish is a sign of bad quality; is it possible that the kitchen wasn't careful enough with quality control, or is this just down to my unfamiliarity with this fish? As a data point, I generally like flavours that might be considered to be verging on stinky/funky (e.g. strong cheeses, fermented black beans), so I'm not _that_ much of a sensitive soul.

                          Finally, we had the thinly-sliced tableside grilled beef in rice paper wrappers to start; we like our beef very rare, and this didn't seem to work very well, since cooking the beef rare meant that the juices leaked out of the rice paper wrappers and made a bit of a mess. Should we avoid this dish in future, or make sure to leave the beef to rest before putting it in the rolls, or is it just down to our failure to wrap the rolls tightly enough? The staff member who explained the process to us did ask how we liked our beef, and we told her, but she didn't say anything about how the doneness of the meat would affect the end result.

                          Hope someone can give some input into this, even if you've not eaten at this specific restaurant - thanks in advance!

                          Viet Grill
                          54 Kingsland Rd, Hackney, Greater London E2 8, GB

                          1. re: Kake

                            I asked these questions in a couple of other places having got no replies here, and thought I would share the answers. (These are just what I was told; feel free to disagree.)

                            Water spinach isn't more expensive than any other imported veg, but vegetable side dishes do seem to be expensive in Vietnamese places (we don't know why).

                            All catfish tastes slightly muddy; bad catfish is _extremely_ dirty tasting.

                            Putting rare beef in rice paper rolls is fine if you leave it to rest for a bit first.

                          2. re: Noogs

                            Thanks for the Cafe East recommendation; it's about 30 minutes' walk from my house so I took my boyfriend along there this evening. We both had pho; he had the chicken, I had the one with chicken, beef, and prawns. I should have noted down to try the Bun Bo Hue as you suggested — I will do so next time (and there will be a next time). I'm still learning about Vietnamese food so my opinion possibly means little, but I did like everything about my Pho. The base stock was really clear-tasting; the noodles weren't even slightly stodgy; the prawns were good big ones and not overcooked; and although the beef was well-done, I didn't hate it! (I'll normally only eat beef if it's rare or raw.)

                            We also had some spring rolls (the ones wrapped in rice paper, not deep-fried), and they were good too.

                            Now some questions, if anyone would be so kind as to take the time to answer...

                            (1) The spring rolls came with a dipping sauce that was mostly brown but with a swirl of red and some chopped peanuts sprinkled on top. It was kind of sweetish. Anyone know what might have been in it?

                            (2) Some of the other people in the cafe were drinking something that came in a tall glass, looked like it might have involved soya milk, and had "bits" in. Any ideas as to what it might have been? (I really should have got a photo of the menu for Googling purposes — although they do offer a takeaway service, they don't have any menus to take away.)

                            Oh; worth mentioning that they don't offer any alcohol. I didn't ask if you're allowed to bring your own. It's really a cafe, not a restaurant at all, though it is open in the evenings.

                            Cafe East
                            24 Evelyn St, Lewisham, Greater London SE8 5, GB

                          3. I like Huong Viet in Dalston, just off Kingsland Road, though Viet Grill is, as others have said, tasty and cheap, too. Huong Viet is a schlepp from most tube stations, but buses take you close enough. It's BYOB with a small corkage fee, which is nice. Not everything on the menu is good, but the dishes that are delicious are consistently so. Having eaten there at least a dozen times now, I'd highly recommend the Hanoi beef pho, the Vietnamese 'pancake' with prawns, cha gio (of course), and the whole steamed sea bass, which gets deserved rave reviews for being cheap (£7.50?) and delicious.

                            The service is well-intentioned but regularly overwhelmed by diners, and the place is housed in a converted Vietnamese community centre, so don't expect much by way of decor.

                            I, too, would love to know where to find banh mi in London. So far, I've gotten my banh mi fix when in Paris, which isn't very convenient!

                            1. I tried Pho @ King's Cross the other day. Their website is: http://www.eatpho.co.uk/

                              I had a hot bowl of pho tai, chin nac. It was a good, more northern-style bowl of pho. They have a good selection of banh mi and many other dishes that I'll be trying on another visit.

                              The restaurant is pretty clean, well lit, and easy to find. It's also quite cheap (£5 for pho).

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: misswills

                                How is it? I'm eyeing the brisket, tendon, tripe and balls pho as a special treat since it's so close to my school.

                                1. re: JFores

                                  I thought the pho there was very good, especially in light of the millions of bowls of pho I've had all over N. California (which is home to a huge Vietnamese community). Pho @ King's Cross' broth is a bit lighter and slightly sour-sweet, as they used some lemongrass in the soup. I'm more used to the meat heavy, super savoury with lots of cinnamon bark type of broth but I thought the lemongrass worked well in their preparation. It might've helped that I had it on a really muggy day, so the lighter broth made it really refreshing.

                                  They also do lunch specials for £4.80. I believe it's 1 starter and 1 main. I skipped over that because I was too excited to see pho on the menu, but it may be worth having if you want a bigger lunch.

                              2. Viet - 34 Greek Street, Soho.

                                1. I don't suppose anyone's been to the Long Time Cafe in Brockley, SE4, near the station? I know nothing about it other than that it does Vietnamese food in a pretty informal atmosphere. I'm heading down to Brockley this week for a bit of a wander and am hunting out places to have lunch (and also perhaps dinner, if the area proves sufficiently interesting).

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Kake

                                    Just to update on this: I visited the Long Time Cafe last night. Pho was decent enough, though not at all spicy (in fact nothing was spicy). It's not worth much of a journey but I'd say it's certainly a decent option for the area. (Note though that it is tiny — around 15 seats and if they were all full you'd be very cosy.) Open in the evenings only, closed Sundays and bank holidays. Longer writeup here: http://london.randomness.org.uk/wiki....

                                  2. You won't find any good vietnamese in London, sad to say. Been craving good vietnamese since I've been here so resorted to making it myself---saving up the cash to take a real trip out to either Vietnam or San Fran for the real stuff!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: bagelfairy

                                      i find it very hard to believe that you could find nothing on kingsland road!

                                          1. re: condimentqueen

                                            no - expert and passionate audience (grin)

                                    2. I know it`s not exactly the topic, but anyways: i`m coming to London for a few days and would like to know if anybody knows a place, where I can buy the actual pot for vietnamese Hot Pot? have been searching for about a year now, but there`s nothing on the internet or in denmark... so please help me!

                                      1. Viet Anh on Parkway in Camden is one of my staples. Always fresh, always cheap and they are lovely people. Spent a ton of time in there... recommend the Vietnamese Curry and the lettuce wrapped chicken pancake as a starter

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: expatlondon

                                          Have to agree with the recs for Song Que. Pretty good pho as far as these things go - although not as good as what I've had in Melbourne / still haven't made it to Vietnam

                                          Like everything the best pho i've had is eating at the houses of Vietnamese friends