I have by now tried all the Vietnamese eateries dotted along the Pho Mile of Kingsland Road, so it was high time that I started to venture further east into the heart of Hackney to seek out what's cooking. Mare Street (reachable by the number 55 bus!) is technically parallel to the Pho Mile, in addition to its proliferation of random businesses run by the settled Vietnamese community, I was also surprised to find a large amount Chinese takeaways or generic 'chop suey' joints in one area!
Tre Viet was recommended by Lurch, an affable ex-college mate I met for dinner last night. Like all foodie muggles who live near a particular restaurant, Lurch enthuses about this place as being the best Vietnamese in London by a mile and dirt cheap. The ambience of the dining room had this sepia effect about it, it was also like walking into a horticultural museum dedicated to bamboo- the choice of furniture or decor used can only suggest that any effort applied to comply with the term 'current contemporary' was quite obviously non existent.
Service like with all Vietnamese restaurants in London is adequately friendly and so-so efficient; once again the common trait of the lack of any English spoken or understood is as usual part and parcel. (I still find this phenomenon a kick-in-the-teeth experience, how do these post-teenagers get away with less than ten words of the English vocabulary? I’m numbed senseless! And it's not just the Vietnamese restaurants that I'm talking about; it's rife out there as I've also noticed this practice at the Maze Grill, Cafe Garcia, Indian restaurants, etc.)
I've said it before, when going for a Vietnamese one simply has to try the coffee. This is the iced version with the addition of condensed milk- sickly sweet and deftly synthetic, yum!
A totally insulting portion of chả chiên- fried Vietnamese sausage. Five measly slices at £3.50, who is kidding who? Tasted ok and most definitely not life changing.
Impressive looking bánh cuốn- Vietnamese rice noodle rolls with a filling of pork and prawn. Now this inherently wonderful steamed Vietnamese industry standard was served at a lukewarm temperature (reminded me of the veloute fiasco at The Princess Victoria). Lurch said that he has only known this dish to be served at that temperature; well sonny maybe at Tre Viet but certainly not at the other Vietnamese restaurants I've been to. Imagine dear Lurch swearing by gazpacho being always served piping hot!
BTW, despite the temperature indifference, the bánh cuốn was rather tasty.
The gỏi cuốn or Summer roll was pretty decent and surprisingly accomplished. Don't overdose on this dish; the prodigious amount of vermicelli enclosed within is extremely filling.
Lurch's beefy Pho was his raison d'être to patronise this place weekly. It was at best average, I need to drag him down to Kingsland Road.
My Bún bò Huế or spicy pho with beef and pork. This dish is supposed to make anyone sweat profusely, not me mate; it was way toned down and in terms of chilli hotness, it was as mild as a Japanese curry!
I looked around the now busy dining room and then suddenly something dawned on me; holy Saigon, all the diners were not Vietnamese (well what I mean is no Orientals!). No flippin' wonder why the food here tasted uninspiring. And Lurch, at £15 a head with no booze, I think we ought to head to the Pho Mile next time. For the real thing you can’t go much wrong with Loong Kee.
As for Tre Viet, I'm not going back.
251 Mare Street