Tay Do runs two established Vietnamese outlets in Kingsland Road – a café opened in 2000, then a restaurant in 2008 – and is renowned for serving big portions of quality nosh at low prices. It’s BYOB, too.
The food in the restaurant is excellent, with an exhaustive menu for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. The chef’s special, bánh xèo, a Vietnamese pancake made from rice flour, was splendid: a shining turmeric-coloured half-moon, filled with a jungle of beansprouts and juicy prawns.
The hu tieu noodle soup, one of Tay Do’s specialities, arrived in a cavernous bowl. Succulent pieces of pork bobbed between rice noodles, alongside refreshing bits of coriander, spring onions and chilli. A splash of lime added a welcomed sharpness to this translucent broth, rich in flavour. A dish of chicken cooked in chilli and lemongrass started out fiery on the tongue, but was cooled by coconut milk.
But Tay Do has lots of foibles: most notably, a lack of atmosphere. Harsh lighting combined with sickly, pale yellow walls makes it feel more like an NHS hospital waiting area. There were only a few other customers on my Wednesday night visit, while nearby Sông Quê Café was rammed. And the service, although prompt, wasn’t at all friendly (on my arrival, a waiter gestured me to a table with a silent hand-point).
Tay Do still delivers on low-cost, delicious food. Just don’t expect much in the way of ambience.