Located halfway down Mare Street behind an apparently run-down façade, Green Papaya feels like a quiet club. It’s a charming little place: long-established, family-run, simple and well loved. Customers are a mixed bunch, from American hipster tourists to dapper older-generation Caribbean couples in their Sunday best, complete with hats.
Service is laid-back yet efficient and welcoming, and the food quite superb. Soft-shell crab with salt and chilli was exactly as it should be, with discernible chunks of flavoursome, well-textured crab in a crunchy, tasty batter. The food here seems to come from a slightly different tradition from that of most London competitors: grilled spicy lamb with cumin, a rarity on most Vietnamese menus, was a revelation – the flavour of the lamb highlighted rather than masked by the treatment. Lamb slow-cooked with lemongrass, galangal and coconut milk is an enticing alternative.
Another plus: prices are generally 20% lower than those in the other well-known Mare Street Vietnamese establishments.