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Caphe House, Bermondsey Street/Southwark, London

limster Jul 21, 2009 04:24 PM

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.


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  1. babybat RE: limster Jul 22, 2009 03:23 PM

    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
      limster RE: babybat Jul 22, 2009 03:39 PM

      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. oonth RE: limster Jul 25, 2009 01:40 AM

      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
        limster RE: oonth Jul 25, 2009 06:24 AM

        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. CTownFeedR RE: limster Jul 26, 2009 02:55 AM

        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. caphehouse RE: limster Aug 1, 2009 04:06 AM

          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
            limster RE: caphehouse Aug 1, 2009 06:27 AM

            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
              caphehouse RE: limster Aug 1, 2009 06:53 AM

              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
                limster RE: caphehouse Aug 1, 2009 07:09 AM

                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.

          2. limster RE: limster Aug 5, 2009 10:29 AM

            The hot and chilled versions of Vietnamese drip coffee with condensed milk (ca phe sua and ca phe sua da respectively) are very good. Rich, smooth with a very suave chocolate malt like nuttiness. They use Zgoz (hope I got the spelling right) coffee from CapheVN (www.caphevn.co.uk). Also noticed on that they've started selling stir fried dishes with rice or noodles.

            8 Replies
            1. re: limster
              oonth RE: limster Aug 5, 2009 11:14 AM

              Good to know about the coffee and extended menu, in spite of my reservations about their banh mi, I liked the place and am keen to go back and try more items. The owners seem likeable and receptive to customer feedback.

              That coffee is indeed called Zgoz, I bought some a few months ago for home use (they used to have a stall in the Covent Garden Market, maybe they still do). It is very chocolately indeed, I seem to remember being told that they roast coffee and cocoa beans together. It's a little known fact but Vietnam is in fact the world's 2nd biggest producer of coffee beans.

              1. re: oonth
                LinaWin RE: oonth Aug 13, 2009 03:19 PM

                Thanks for info on this. Will check it out. I usually stock up at Cafe Bay in Camberwell who are pretty efficient with their banh mi. The queue is long but service is fast. They're cheaper than Caphe house but i work nearer to Bermondsey.

                1. re: LinaWin
                  greedygirl RE: LinaWin Aug 14, 2009 01:35 AM

                  Does Café Bay stock Vietnamese coffee then? We're on our last packet brought back from Vietnam!

                  1. re: greedygirl
                    oonth RE: greedygirl Aug 16, 2009 02:12 AM

                    Here's the link to Ca Phe VN website. You can buy at stockists like Pho or Algerian Coffee Store or else online, including the highly prized beans that have been through a civet's digestive system!


                    1. re: greedygirl
                      LinaWin RE: greedygirl Aug 16, 2009 04:30 PM

                      Oops sorry I meant I stock up my baguettes at Cafe Bay.

                      Not sure if they stock packs of coffee but they do sell yummy iced coffee. They use a coffee brand called Trung Nguyen. Its aroma is gorgeous and tastes very rich. You can get it at the Vietnamese supermarkets although my home made versions are never as nice as the ones from Cafe Bay.

                2. re: limster
                  greedygirl RE: limster Aug 14, 2009 01:35 AM

                  Do they do iced coffee - Mr GG loved that when we were in Vietnam?

                  1. re: greedygirl
                    limster RE: greedygirl Aug 14, 2009 02:47 AM

                    Yes they do ice coffee with condensed milk too.

                    1. re: limster
                      Nii RE: limster Nov 25, 2009 01:01 PM

                      I have to say I was disappointed with my banh mi at CH; maybe my expectations were too high. I ordered the special, but realised after chomping away that there was no coriander/daikon and they'd completely skimped on the chilli's, also it was literally doused with the chilli/soy sauce. The Pho was much better. I hope Cafe Bay can redeem my hopes in Banh Mi in London.

                3. m
                  mira_nguyen RE: limster May 29, 2010 04:23 AM

                  I made my way to Caphe House after visiting Borough Market to try one of their baguettes and a coffee. The baguette was quite disappointing, the filling was a bit stingy and could have had more flavor.

                  I tried the summer rolls with prawn and this was okay but nowhere near as nice as homemade. I wish they sold fried spring rolls and banh cuon as well. I did like the coffee which was dark, rich and chocolatey but I ordered it hot and it was barely warm. I miss Vietnam and wish there was a good place to go in London.

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