Posts Tagged ‘Vietnamese’

Resto 4 Saigon, Northampton

February 6, 2019


I’ve been working in Northampton for about six months now but thus far without the opportunity to eat anything but canteen fare and humble pie. A visit from the Old Boy was an opportunity to break out of the campus routine and see what the town has in the way of gastronomy.

I’d been recommended Mandarin by one of the students – James had other ideas. He’d spotted Saigon on his way from the station and I was happy to do that. After a pint in the excellent Wig & Pen we strolled up to Saigon with phô in mind.

We were early (I was booked on an 8 o’clock train) so the room was empty of customers but that was okay – there were plenty of staff to make up the numbers. We took a table in the window; who would want to deprive themselves of the Northampton street scene? With its broad vista of pound shops, chicken shacks and Polski skleps it was like being at home in Harringay.

But looking at the menu I knew I wasn’t in Harringay any more – everything was about 30% cheaper. We went for a summer-spring roll mash up to start and a beef phô for main. The summer rolls were fat tubes of fresh veg with a sticky sweet sauce. Hard to get wrong and the bees knees when done to perfection (as these were).

Spring rolls were wrapped in a crunchy green shell and came with a haystack sized pile of fresh leaves alongside. We spurned the veg and got stuck into the rolls straight away. This prompted a rapid intervention by the owner who stormed over and enquired, ‘You ok?!’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘You wrap the roll in mint and lettuce – MORE FLAVOUR!!’ This seemed less a piece of advice than a command. We complied rapidly. ‘The girl not tell you?’ We couldn’t help but admit that she hadn’t. ‘I tell her.’ Oh dear.

The girl (who looked like her daughter) didn’t seem overly fussed about getting a bollocking when she brought us the phô so all was good. The phô was a big bowl of good stuff – a rich broth and about half a cow in it, the fat melting into liquid, sitting amongst a good helping of noodles.

The owner brought us the usual fish and soy sauces but these were unnecessary. We’d already tested what looked like a home-made chilli sauce in a little china bowl on the table, dipping the complimentary prawn crackers in it when we got our first beer. This sauce was straight from Vulcan’s kitchen, chilli seeds visible in a bright red paste that promised sweet burning fury in the gob and utter devastation of one’s middle-aged digestive system. I piled it into the phô and ordered another beer as an antidote. I was in chilli heaven.

Meanwhile the owner started gearing up for Chinese New Year by sticking a kitsch pig in the window. ‘Year of pig! VERY LUCKY!!’

Indeed we were.

#food #Northampton


To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 22 Viet Eat, Holborn

August 1, 2018

In torrential summer rain we ducked into Viet Eat for a quick dinner thinking a bowl of Phô would be just the job. But it didn’t go well. It was early evening and the room wasn’t busy, just a smattering of tourists, so there wasn’t really any excuse for the slackness of the service. Asking for a fork and spoon we were told that Vietnamese food is usually eaten with chopsticks. No shit! But just give me the flatware and save your condescension for someone who gives a toss.

The food too was underwhelming. The broth on the Phô was a bit underpowered so I slathered in some sauce for a bit of flavour. The rest of the dishes were fine, not memorable. Not worth revisiting.


#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 17 Khoai Café, Crouch End

June 9, 2018


After Matthew’s Kitchen I’m slowly munching my way through Topsfield Parade during the Crouch End Festival prep. In fact not prep because my visit to Khoai was a pitstop on the way to the excellent Storm in a Teacup, which acted as a phenomenally good curtain raiser to the dramatic freebies on offer.

And it was a good pitstop too. For my dining companion it was memorable as once being the venue for a date with a man who turned out to be a (fortunately non-lethal) knife obsessive. For me it was memorable for overturning my harrumph at the could be better Kho of the previous week. What Kho got wrong Khoai gets right.

Starting with the service. I was early so the room was pretty empty (I think a younger member of the Khoai crew was doing her homework in one corner) and it was a pleasant thing to be told to sit pretty much anywhere. The room is good for either getting in the window and gawping or tucking yourself away; I did the latter.

A requested cold beer was delivered promptly and I’d slugged it down as the rest of the party arrived. We went for soft shell crab up front then a spicy Bun Hué for me. There was a good amount of crab and rather than any stickysweet sauce  there was a pleasingly simple garnish of fried onions and chilli. I’d gone for the Bun Hué as I fancied a bit of heat and boy did I get it! A rash stuffing of the bird’s eye into the maw of a hungry man brought on a chilli induced apoplexy followed by the enjoyable sensation of one’s mouth returning to acceptability. There were plenty of prawns in there too and the whole thing did what I wanted it to do, i.e. fresh veg, fresh noodles and flavoursome soup.

At around twenty quid a head invlud my drinks in this was not fine dining but it was good value in an area of London that suffers from a slew of hipper places (I think Khoai is family run) that charge a premium for having such crucial things as curated music and cutting-edge fonts on the menu.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto #4 Quê Mę

January 23, 2017

Abutting the Yak on Stroud Green we paid a visit to Quê Mę in search of freshness and spice. We got both. A platter of sea nibbles to kick off was a good choice with battered this and soft shell that all being eminently munchable. Bun Hue for main was a richly flavoured bowl of soup with plenty of prawns and vegetables swimming around within.

Our waiter had apologised for being slow to take our order as it was his first night but he had no need to be concerned, everything went smoothly on the service side of things. A full room on an early Saturday evening (in contrast to La Porchetta a couple of doors along) showed that Quê Mę has successfully cracked the price/quality equation for this stretch of restos, where the competition is fierce. The only downside was a lack of good quality wine. I should’ve stuck to beer.


#Food #London #Vietnamese

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #107 Hanoi Phø*, Green Lanes

December 13, 2016

After another afternoon on the baize we were two hungry chaps in search of some non-kebabisch sustenance on Green Lanes. What luck then that another Vietnamese has opened on the high street. This Hanoi Phø is a more upsacale beast than its canteeny namesake across the road with comfy chairs and big linened tables. It being Sunday teatime it wasn’t especially busy but we didn’t care.

I was struck by the music. Elton John crooning Your Song wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. This was followed by a further smattering of syrupy ballads and then a John Williams megamix (the guitarist rather than the Star Wars guy).

The food on the other hand was authentic Vietnamese. We started off with some nem – crunchy crisp prawn filled shells with a bold flavoured dip. So good I wish I’d ordered a whole plateful for myself. A main of phø had a rich stock and good lumps of real chicken as well as the usual accoutrements. I was rather jealous of the sizzling goat across the way and will have that next time. A couple of Saigon beers went down very well and this was another bargain dinner, coming in at less than a score each. Definitely on a good run of eating in December.


*Okay, so this is getting confusing now. I went to Hanoi Phø on Green Lanes for review #43 but at that point it wasn’t listed on GoogleMap so I just used their other branch in Mare Street. Now there’s another Hanoi Phø on Green Lanes but that one isn’t listed on GoogleMap so I’ve had to use the first Green Lanes Hanoi Phø’s location which has in the meantime been listed. Confused? Well, the #43 review is next door to The Salisbury, while the one I’m concerned with now is further towards Finsbury Park, next to Hot Nuts. That’s not the first branch of Hot Nuts, which is nearer to the railway bridge, but rather the second branch of Hot Nuts which is closer to the snooker club. All clear?

#Food #London #Harringay

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #76 Phô, Fitzrovia

September 5, 2016

To meet friends on a Friday night curry was ruled out by one of the party being on a health drive (don’t ask) so instead we opted for Vietnamese. Having been to a good local independent recently I thought it’d be interesting how the Vietnamese experience would compare in London’s top chain.

This Phô is in the Westminster stomping ground of Gurt Tichfield Street so on a Friday it’s busy. But they managed to squeeze us in. Sadly they’d run out of a couple of the starter specials but a prawn summer was good and fresh while the squid bits in sauce were also yummy if not entirely generously portioned. A big bottle of Vietnamese beer did the trick on the liquid front and then I was ready for my Phô.

It was a good Phô, everything was in its right place and it enough chilli to give me the watery eyes. The service was fine if of that ‘we don’t want to hurry you but we’re definitely going to need your table if you hang around too long’ variety and a rackety noisy room in this area at this time is par for the course. It was good enough but I’d rather do this kind of thing locally than in town in future. But wait a minute, what about Bang! Bang! up the road … mebbe I’ll give that a try next.


To see where else I’ve eaten (or now haven’t) in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Review #72 Q&T Vietnamese Kitchen, Stroud Green Road

September 3, 2016

After a packed week it’s been hard to keep up with doing the reviews so this one arrives a few days later than intended. I’ve had my eye on Q&T for a while as Hanoi Phô was a bit of a disappointment and an alternative for Vietnamese yummies within walking distance would be a good thing.

So we went to Q&T to meet an old friend who curiously had been to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand but not Vietnam. It’s BYOB (which we hadn’t been aware of beforehand so we hadn’t BOOB) with a £1.50 corkage but I decided to stick to soft drinks with one eye on an 8 o’clock train to Paris to catch the following day. A good homemade lemonade was delicious  – tangy and not too sweet. We shared some starters of summer rolls, morning glory and satay chicken. All very good and I only wished that we’d ordered more.

But then again I mightn’t have had room for the phô, which was a big bowl of rich soup with a generous helping of prawns and noodles accompanied by the usual veg to lob in at your own desire. Good hot chilli was what I wanted and it’s what I got. At around fifteen quid a head and with friendly service it’s no wonder that the room was full throughout our stay. Recommended.


To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Review #43 Hanoi Phô, Green Lanes

May 2, 2016

After delivering a thrashing at snooker it was to Green Lanes to find some dinner with the family. As far as I know Hanoi Phô is the only Vietnamese within strolling distance of Harringay and thus offers a bit of variety from the kebab avalanche (kebabalanche) of high street eateries.

The small room is bright with bucket seats not exactly ergonomically designed for our brethren – it was somewhat akin to sitting on a Chopper.* Maybe it’s a Vietnamese thing. There’s also good people-watching to be had through the floor to ceiling window. I don’t think they have a licence – there was no alcohol on the menu – and I didn’t find out if you could take your own as we’d already had a couple of Efes baize-side followed by a cheeky one in The Salisbury (a good pub) and it was time for a rest. So I had a sparkling water.

We shared starters of one portion each of spring and summer nem. The spring nem (prawn variety) were packed with fresh and aromatic crunchy herbs and lettuce while the summer variety was a deep fried pork’n’stodge thing that wasn’t quite as appetising.

A big bowl of prawn phô was my main. A dozen or so good-sized prawns were swimming in a too subtle broth with ribbony noodles. So I livened it up by lobbing in the entire side veg and a liberal dose of Goose Island Sriracha Chilli Sauce. Yum.

Service was efficient, perhaps a bit too efficient for a relaxing Saturday evening, so I’d say Hanoi Phô is more suited to a quick pit stop than a baggy evening dinner.


*The classic low-slung 1970s bike, not some hardware from Apocalypse Now.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #29 House of Ho, Fitzrovia

March 19, 2016

Looking for a quick bite at lunch with a friend Vietnamese seemed a smart option. House of Ho is much more opulent within than it appears from without, or was it just that my mind was elsewhere and I didn’t pick up the superior vibe? Either way I was happy enough to be led to the table by an elegant waitress and slide into my seat beside a quartet of adland kings.

To the food. The dumplings were extraordinary! A mixture of fishy ds were gelatinous melt-in-the-mouth perfection and really if I’d just eaten a dozen each of them that would have been a perfect lunch. But having slipped down three of the beauties I moved onto the chicken pho. Now normally this would have been just very satisfying. It had everything you expect in a pho – fresh ingredients, a tasty broth and a good mixture of sauces to liven it up to your own taste. But it was let down by some average noodles (weird but true) and thus completely upstaged by its warm up act.*

I looked enviously at the admens’ battered prawns (served on a gurt heap of chilli) next door which were resplendent among a range of goodies  and determined that this place would be better for a sophisticated dinner than a Pho-type lunchtime bellyfiller.

I’ll be back next year.


*Just like when I saw Radiohead (then unknown) supporting the Sultans of Ping FC (now unknown) at the now defunct Riverside in Newcastle. I bet the boys from Oxford don’t reminisce about that evening very often.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

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