Cây Tre’s longstanding popularity is partly thanks to its location: easier to stumble upon for the non-local than nearby Kingsland Road’s Vietnamese cluster. Its crayon box-like signage catches the eye too, and suits the neighbourhood’s peacockish outlook. Inside, the scars of revelry are plain to see: the wallpaper, busy with swirling Japanese imagery of dragons and warriors, is scuffed, splattered and even burnt.
The menu is brief for a budget Vietnamese, and scattered with the unexpected: ‘anchovied chicken wings’, ‘Indochine lamb’, ‘Cornish’ scallops and ‘Somerset’ pork. But a beef ‘carpaccio’ couldn’t have tasted more Vietnamese: just-so tangy, and alive with diverse herbs and chillies (albeit served tepid). The backbone of a banana leaf-roasted mackerel was flicked out expertly by our server at table. Its flesh was pleasingly robust, contrasting with the soft, granular ‘marinade’ of galangal and lemongrass. A huge side dish of water spinach was excellent – firm stem, sloppy leaf and soft garlic – as was a squid and green mango salad. The view out of the window (a solicitor’s and a stationer’s) will hardly distract from Cây Tre’s enduringly good eating.
Cây Tre's Soho branch is a bit more glamorous: a small fortune has been spent on the interior design, to good effect: it looks modern, spacious, airy.