Vietnamese restaurants in London
Now happily embedded in Peckham, this former street-food outfit serves up classic Vietnamese dishes in a modest, neutrally decorated, plywood-clad setting. Classics such as summer rolls, pho and noodle salad share the billing with more unusual ideas including the house special – bánh khot pancakes filled with prawns and topped with spring onion. Space is tight, but there’s more room at the Brixton branch.
It’s a bonus to find proper Vietnamese cooking in Holborn, so load up on pho soups, summer rolls, bánh xeo (pancakes) and other classics at this handily placed venue. At lunchtime, local workers pop in for takeaway bánh mì (crisp baguettes stuffed with pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber and a filling of your choice), while the various versions of pho are perfectly decent renditions.
Squeezed into the car park of the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, Café East looks a bit like a South-East Asian workers’ canteen. The 30-dish pictorial menu offers a handful of starters, lots of substantial bowlfuls, some sides and a few soft drinks – although our faves are the herby summer rolls and the beautifully flavoured pho with beef, chicken and prawns. Impressive, authentic and cheap.
Cây Tre offers just about everything you might expect from a Vietnamese restaurant in Soho: chic, minimalist decor; impeccably smart staff; beautifully served food. The group prides itself on using freshly sourced ingredients of impeccable provenance – witness the super-tasty Devon crab wrap with crisp lettuce and perilla leaves or barbecued Somerset ribs with lemongrass, sriracha chilli sauce and galangal. There’s also a branch in Hoxton.
Enticing aromas waft from this charming little Vietnamese café, where the menu offers everything from lightly spiced noodle soups (bun hue or pho) to vermicelli salads, spring rolls and bánh mì – the ‘classic pork’ version comes with a succulent cold cut of pork, earthy liver pâté, chilli, crunchy veg and coriander, all in a crispy baguette. Expect lengthy queues at lunchtime – although the pace is fast.
The first permanent site from Viet-Aussie chef Damon Bui (of Table for 10 supperclub fame), CôBa is a classy-looking restaurant with a high-spec industrial finish and a liking for kick-ass Vietnamese BBQ cooking. The menu is short, with dishes inspired by the kind of food Bui’s mother served him back in Oz. Our top picks? Crystal-clear beef pho and a belting BBQ lemongrass pork and noodle salad. Great cocktails too.
Long-established, family-run, simple and well loved, Green Papaya is a real Vietnamese charmer with laid-back yet welcoming staff and superb food – including a spot-on version of crispy, crunchy soft-shell crab with salt and chilli. The cooking also absorbs some Xi’an Chinese influences: our grilled spicy lamb with cumin, a rarity on most Vietnamese menus, was a revelation. There’s also a branch on Kingsland Road.
Not far from the Hackney Picturehouse, this smart-ish café/takeaway seems to get plenty of business from the local Vietnamese community – no doubt because of its wide-ranging and esoteric repertoire. Check out the Westlake prawn cakes, the sizzling goat with lemongrass and the ‘cha ca la vong’ – a real treat comprising grilled monkfish marinated in turmeric, galingale and dill, with vermicelli and peanuts.
Formerly of Gilgamesh (RIP), chef Ian Pengelley is now at the helm of this swish Fitzrovia townhouse venue, which offers fairly priced Vietnamese food in a luxe colonial setting. Bowls of punchy fragrant pho, dumplings, curries and shaking beef share the limelight with seafood noodles and a splendid salad of deep-fried trout with vibrant, crunchy star fruit, mango and fresh herbs. Good for groups.
Related to Cây Tre and Viet Grill, this Vietnamese sandwich shop/deli is famed for its bánh mì – in fact, the bread for these tip-top ‘baguettes’ is up there with the very best in London. As an intro, order the ‘classic’ version packed with slices of roast pork, cucumber sticks, coriander leaves, red chilli, pickled carrot and daikon. Simple, but good. Kêu’s original branch is in Shoreditch.
Cheap and cheerful is an increasingly rare commodity in Chinatown, but this casual Vietnamese joint could change all that. We’ll forgive one rather bland pho, because there’s some positively classy food on offer here – from juicy prawn summer rolls and pork dumplings wrapped in betel leaves to an utterly zesty mango salad with crispy shrimps. Low prices mean you can treat yourself and order lots.
From the crew behind Salvation in Noodles, this chummy Vietnamese hangout is a sleek Hanoi-meets-London mash-up specialising in huge portions of Vietnamese BBQ with all the trimmings (including steamed rice noodle pancakes for wrapping). Items such as velvety beef short-rib over squidgy rice are the big hitters, but veggies also do well here – think tofu-filled ‘bánh xeo’ crêpes and meat-free, rice-based ‘com’ bowls.
Having expanded into the premises next door, this Vietnamese stalwart has gone upmarket – although it’s lost none of its allure as a destination for first-rate cooking. Seafood is the big draw here and the kitchen proves its mettle with brilliant ideas such as stir-fried green mussels with ginger and spring onion or scallops with black bean sauce. There’s also a sibling in Battersea.
Ngon means ‘delicious’ in Vietnamese, and this place lives up to its name. A starter of lotus root salad makes a good introduction to the cuisine, while the line-up runs from bánh mì, noodle soups and salads to various rice combos (try the house special with grilled pork cutlet, steamed crab and pork terrine, shredded pork, pickled daikon and nuoc mam). Drink Saigon beer or bubble tea.
West London is something of a desert for Vietnamese food, but this unfailingly welcoming spot near Ravenscourt Park more than makes amends. Pho is a treat here, with a strong stock and all the power of traditional flavours and herbs. Top marks for the crisp vegetarian spring rolls, the flavoursome soft-shell crab and the slow-cooked pork with quail’s eggs in coconut juice too. Reliably good all round.
Friends of pho make a beeline for the excellent noodle soups on offer at this shining star of the Kingsland Road Vietnamese scene. Big, light and buzzy, Sông Quê is constantly packed with happy customers including many families and a good showing of Vietnamese locals, while the food is always first class – and highly authentic too. Textures are perfect, and the flavours are true.
A trade-up from the Tay Do Café across the road, this family-run south Vietnamese restaurant specialises in serving delicious low-cost food in rather garish surroundings – don’t expect much in the way of atmosphere here. Instead, focus on the big portions of authentic nosh – cavernous bowls of hu tieu soup, a fiery dish of chicken with chilli, lemongrass and soothing coconut milk, and so on. BYOB.
Throwing down the Vietnamese gauntlet outside the entrance to Chinatown, this hip outfit puts an ultra-chic spin on things with its industrial-chic interiors and throbbing dance music. The cooking’s pretty cool too, with a pick ’n’ mix menu of stellar street food devised by ex-Hakkasan chef Jeff Tan – do try the stir-fried French beans with sticky beef and the sweet coconut-crunchy deep-fried calamari.
Out of the same stable as Cây Tre and Kêu, Viet Grill is less ramshackle than most of its neighbours on Kingsland Road. It boasts a dedicated ‘pho bar’ and a trendy cocktail list, while the food runs from fashionable ‘small eats’ (anchovy chicken wings, ‘pillow dumplings’ etc) to curries, claypot specialities, vermicelli bowls and meaty offerings from the Josper grill/oven.
‘Worship at the altar of the humble noodle’ says SIN’s blurb – so get slurping from a menu that gives Vietnamese food a hipster spin. Hot ‘soup noodles’ and ‘bun’ noodle salads top the bill, but you can also get spring and summer rolls, crispy taro fries, Vietnamese dumplings and other sharing plates. Cool off with some Dalston lemonade. There’s an offshoot in Finsbury Park.
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