Posted in News
I live in Hackney and love that its so multicultural, especially as it has some of the most diverse selections of restaurants in London. Theres Turkish areas, Caribbean, Indian, Bangladeshi, West African, Polish, Jewish… loads, but the area you will tend to find me chomping my way through the most is the Vietnamese areas. They are situated on the Shoreditch end of Kingsland road or a small part of the middle of Mare street, where you will find hoards of restaurants and cafes.
I thought I had it sussed and while I had my favourite place (Song Que), I would always give the others a chance. The thing about these eateries is they are far from plush. More Greasy spoon, but it’s fine as the food is so good. For those of you not familiar with Vietnamese food people say it’s somewhere between real Chinese and Thai, but a whole heap lighter. I don’t agree as I feel this doesnt do it justice - it’s not really like any other cuisine. Its really aromatic, with lots of fresh herbs, different textures, some dishes can be quite sweet but not much fat is used in the cooking. It does THE best noodle soups, called Pho’, (Said Fu) and is despite the sugar and the odd fried morsal, it’s really quite healthy.
Another one of my favourite Kingsland road haunts is Viet Grill, but over the Christmas break I noticed it was closed for refurbishment. I started getting emails and twitter updates about it impending relaunch and having never experienced a ‘launch’ in any of the Vietnamese restaurants, I was intrigued.Â
So I popped along for the soft launch. The place had now turned into a proper restaurant that would not have been out of place in the west end. It still felt like I was in an Asian restaurant, but it had slipped into the 21st centuary with sleek furnishings, a fantastic wine list, (my boyfriend was particularly impressed with his Hix’s ale) and a far easier to navigate menu - all 3 of these things being unheard of in its counterparts.
But the food? Well as I said an easy to navigate menu, that had all those classics you want and some bits that you might now know. We were feeling a bit flash so we started with salt and pepper lobster. My boyfriend Dean find’s lobster overrated but he said that hand on heart, it was the best lobster he had ever had. We had these marinated beef rolls, some spring rolls and a mango salad which all slipped down brilliantly, but it was the mains that really sung.
We had a whole mackerel that had been cooked in Â banana leaves with lemon grass and it rocked. A slow cooked caramelised catfish that was perfectly moist in the middle, something of a rarity when cooking fish this way, a whole steamed chicken with lemon, salt and pepper and the most awesome of all, a quail, aubergine and okra curry. The food is sublime, the service is super friendly and sharp, the atmosphere cracking and I just love that I’m still hanging in Shoreditch while getting that kind of food experience.
There is still room for the grottier Vietnamese cafes in my life but Viet Grill is changing things for the better. I have already been back, (to sample their special Pho’) and don’t doubt will continue to do so as all dishes are only about a ÂŁ1 more than its competition. All in all, highly recommended.