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Vietnamese food underneath the Charing Cross arches.
It’s not easy to love the arches under Charing Cross station; a dated, gloomy space home to cafés, key-cutters, cobblers and that old Davy’s wine bar, Champagne Charlie’s. MOC Kitchen (no, not a showroom fixture) is the new kid on the block, bringing a bit of Vietnamese vim to this dingy underpass. It’s the first instalment of what they plan to be a rollout: a second is due to open in Holborn.
Strictly speaking there are already two venues here. One side of the walkway hosts a dinky café for those dining in; the other serves take away options, including banh mi made from scratch. Colourful decor, cheery staff and some lovely artwork bring some much-needed brightness to the place. Both sides were busy on our three visits, creating a bit of buzzy hubbub, too.
Elements need to be honed before they ramp up the expansion – unless their aim is to create a middle-of-the-road Vietnamese restaurant chain rather than become a serious challenger to the likes of Song Que and Cay Tre. A chicken pho (steep at £8.90) had good depth but lacked clarity, and was light on ingredients - even after an extra plate of beansprouts, mint, coriander and chilli was added. A coconut chicken curry (£9.50) lacked finesse and was far too sweet. Cold options were better, especially a green papaya and prawn salad (£7.50) with a dressing that was only slightly over-sweet. Service was enthusiastic and friendly.
London already does pretty well for good, cheap Vietnamese restaurants and MOC Kitchen is going to have to go some way further if it really wants to compete with the best. Still, there’s potential here and it’s relatively early days. Plus it’s busy – so we’ll keep the nominative determinism gags on hold for now. After all, if names meant everything, I’d be standing in an alfalfa field right now.
9-10 The Arches
|Transport:||Tube: Charing Cross or Embankment|
|Price:||Meal for two with drinks and service: around £40.|
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 11am-11pm, Sat noon-10.30pm|
|Do you own this business?|