Khoai Café’s pared-down, Formica-happy interior is never going to win any design awards, but that doesn’t bother the Crouch End locals who have thronged to the place since it opened early in 2005. The lure’s easy to understand: deftly handled Vietnamese dishes at distinctly wallet-friendly prices.
A starter of sautéed squid was tender, and fragrant with chilli and garlic fried to toffee-like nuggets. Main courses displayed the same sense of flavour balance: fried catfish was served whole, with slivers of punchy ginger; beef pho was assertively spicy; and a side dish of just-wilted greens came in a delicate, liquor-like oyster sauce. Booking’s a good idea, but staff will happily take your mobile number while you scoot over to a nearby bar; they’ll phone as soon as a table’s free.