The dining room of a Vietnamese restaurant in London is divided into three categories. The first is often indicative of contemporariness and a willingness to comply with what’s currently ticking (the Viet Grill and That Vietnamese Place come to mind). The second one is let’s move into an existing restaurant and not spend a single penny on it (my beloved Loong Kee Café). The third is the most common in Pho Mile, it’s a template jobbie that can be obtained from the Vietnamese section at Restaurants ‘Я’ Us. Expect lurid colours, mismatched furniture, Vietnamese art ill adorned on the walls and a confusing mix of fluorescent and halogen lighting. Tây Đô belongs to this illustrious category (a Pho Mile ilk).
The inclusion of young, cocky male waiters is a sure-fire sign of authenticity in London’s Vietnamese restaurants.
First thing to order is the Cà Phê Sữa. This is iced Vietnamese white coffee. It’s quite common in South East Asia to have a coffee drink accompanying one’s meal. Vietnamese coffee is inherently rich, strong and chocolate tasting; the addition of condensed milk (one of the few good things left by colonialism) turns this into a wonderful non-alcoholic rival to Baileys. Suitably addictive.
Gỏi Cuốn- Summer Rolls of Prawn and Pork.
Three important factors define this dish, they have to be tightly packed (they were here), served at room temperature (fridge cold here-tut) and have at least two whole prawns per roll (box ticked).
These were ok tasting, but I felt they needed more coriander with the pork and prawn filling. The dipping sauce tasted of bog standard hoisin sauce.
Rice vermicelli with chargrilled prawns.
This one dish meal comes with a dipping bowl of nước chấm (a concoction of fish sauce, lime, water and sugar). The idea is to tip the latter in its entirety to the bowl of noodles, essentially to flavour and wet the noodles. A joyous dish to behold.
The generosity of the amount of beautifully cooked prawns that’s included makes this wonderful dish incredibly good value as well.
My recollection of the benchmark dish of Phở Bò (Beef Pho) here was cursory. I need to come back here again try the pho but I doubt it’s in the same league as Loong Kee Café. Otherwise no cause for complain, this place warrants a safe recommendation from me.
NB I found this review funny and somewhat desperate.
65 Kingsland Road
London E2 8AG