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Caphe House, Bermondsey Street/Southwark, London

A Vietnamese Cafe that opened on 114 Bermondsey Street today (well, actually yesterday, it's just past midnight). Banh mi is decent, the bread is fairly soft, and the crust somewhat shatteringly brittle, although I wouldn't call it the best of its kind. A reasonable coat of banh mi specific mayo and butter for that moist gloss and richness. Then slices of pork with a suitably porky flavour, and a steamed Vietnamese sausage (cha lua) that resembles mortadella in texture. A sprig of cilantro, curnchy strips of cucumber and sweet/sour pickled carrot (no turnip) for contrast with the meat. And a dash of some dark sauce that looks home made, probably a mix of soy sauce and the dark Maggi sauce. Not bad on the whole for a day 1 effort, but I would want to have some chilli in it and also a livery spread of pate for the complete range of flavours and balance among the ingredients.

There's a chicken banh mi as well and a vegetarian one (just the veg ingredients, not with fake meats).

They also sell banh cuon - minced pork and mushroom wrapped in rice sheets (didn't try). Not sure if they have Vietnamese drip coffee with condensed milk (ca phe sua da), there only seemed to be an espresso machine.

As always, it's hard to judge a newly opened place, hope to hear more about it from other hounds.

www.caphehouse.co.uk

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  1. I got lunch there today - the regular banh mi. The baguette was nice, and the roast pork had a good depth of flavour, but no cha lua or pate, and the carrot/cucumber weren't really pickled. The sauce was nice, but it wasn't particularly generously filled for £3.50, and there was no chili, lime or even fish sauce which might have perked it up a bit. The service was a bit chaotic, but I think that's probably just teething trouble. On the whole, could try better - I prefer the banh mi at Cafe Bay, although the roast pork in this one did seem better quality.

    1 Reply
    1. re: babybat

      Yes - agree the banh mi is kind of skimpy at Caphe House. The banh cuon (served over chopped lettuce, peppers and tomatoes ratherthan bean sprouts) is somewhat average, the skins still chewy but fairly thick, and the black fungus and minced pork filling rather skimpy too. Cha gio, the Vietnamese spring rolls, were decent, with all the right ingredients for a vegetarian version (mung bean noodles, black fungus and/or mushroom, carrots), but could have been more generous with the filling.

      BTW, does Cafe Bay (or any of the other banh mi places) have the meatball (xiu mai) banh mi?

    2. Had a meeting in the vicinity yesterday so gave Caphe House a go. Ordered the special banh mi. Good sandwich but average banh mi in my opinion. The defining Vietnamese flavours are too muted for me, just needs bigger and bolder flavours all round. They have started incorporating pate in the special but it needs to have a more distinct livery flavour. They seem like nice people (asking each customer how they enjoyed their food) and it's a calm, pleasant space so I wish them well and would certainly pop back to try other things.

      Like babybat, I prefer the Banh Mi @ Cafe Bay which had more stongly defined flavours for the fillings (although the veggies weren't pickled strongly enough for my taste) and excellent bread.

      Good to see an embryonic banh mi scene in London although would still love to see a full blown Vietnamese bakery at some point.

      1 Reply
      1. re: oonth

        Yes, agree about the pate, just tried one. They've started to include pickled onions and turnip, and also small slivers of red chilli. I'd definitely want mine with more chilli, although I'm happy finally to not to get a banh mi with mexican jalapenos. Would also be great if they toasted the banh mi, for a warm-cool contrast, but I don't see a toaster oven, de riguer at banh mi places. Wonder if the banh mi will continue evovle here.

      2. Agree with the previous comments here. Bahn mi was OK. Ratio of meat to veggies to bread not correct unfortunately. Too little meat. Pickled veggies did not have enough bite. Asked for everthing, took it away and realized there was no pate or mayo.

        What's really missing is that gestalt of all the components working together. It's not happening at the moment. I really hope they pick up their game. I would love to have this place be great.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. Banh Cuon (Summer Rolls) does not include minced pork, mushroom, or black fungus. These should not be confused with Cha Gio (Spring Rolls) which do contain minced pork and black fungus.

            3 Replies
            1. re: caphehouse

              Thanks for the clarification, but aren't summer rolls = goi cuon, whereas banh cuon are cheong fun like, with a cooked slightly chewy rice sheet?

              see these for pictures:
              Summer roll/goi cuon -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_roll
              Banh cuon -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banh_cuon

              1. re: limster

                I stand corrected. It is indeed, Goi Cuon and not Banh Cuon.

                Your original post correctly describes Banh Cuon, but it is not something which is sold at caphehouse. However, Goi Cuon is. This is probably what caused the confusion.

                1. re: caphehouse

                  Yes, that's true; Caphe House didn't have banh cuon the last time I was there, but it was sold there the first couple of days they opened. The menu there has changed over the last week or so.