Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Thăng Long (formerly Phở Sweet Basil)

Updated 04/03/12

The above restaurant is now known as Quán Nuóng
(the name vaguely means grill shop)

Updated October 2010

Re-branded as Thăng Long. The restaurant is family run, friendly but the service is sadly erratic when the the place becomes a little over half-full. Case of Mum and Dad cooking in the kitchen, sons struggling with front of house and nan sitting in the corner masquerading as a piece of furniture. Alas, the food served here is at best poor but Thăng Long should survive because it thrives on the unfortunate souls who simply give up queuing at the other restos (offering superior cooking) that are found on The Phở Mile.

Summer Rolls- basic and textbook like, bland and forgettable. If Tesco were to stock up on summer rolls alongside their approximate sushi, this would be it.

Vegetarian stir-fried egg noodles- sad and a rip-off at six quid. The noodles basically came from one of those instant ramen multi-packs. This is the sort of the dish found demonstrated endlessly in Jamie Oliver's American Food Revolution but worse. Big fail.

The so-called Chef's Special Pho- special because it contained two extra prawns and three slices of bleached white chicken in addition to the regular beef noodle soup. The whole dish lacked substance and depth, and on top of that I had to remind the young chap serving us what happened to the garnishes of basil, lime, bean sprouts, and chilli peppers. His facial response suggested was- oh didn't know phos came with garnishes! I'd been had. £7.50 for the crap.

Peeps, sorry to say but avoid Thăng Long. Just persevere with the queues at the other nearby restaurants at all times.


I watched the recent episode about Vietnam with Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey on BBC’s iPlayer and was rather disappointed that he merely skimped on the important aspects of this wonderful cuisine. At the very least Clarkson and the boys sampled more exotic dishes than he did when Top Gear: Vietnam Special was aired. Rick Stein, let’s face it you couldn’t wait to escape to Thailand, I’m sorry but Anthony Bourdain makes you look like a right sheltered little boy.

No apologies for yet another review of a Vietnamese restaurant. It’s a duty unto myself to complete the task of eating my way through The Pho Mile and all the other Vietnamese joints within the M25. Phở Sweet Basil has three disadvantages compared to the others on Kingsland Road:

The name- it’s dourly lame and hardly significant. If I were a branding dork I would suggest something like The Deer Hunter (arouses sure-fire curiosity!) or Aphocalypse Now! but certainly not Pho Real or Phở Sweet Basil.

Location- it’s on the wrong side of the road and the consequences make its presence forlorn. Those diners who are tired of queuing up at the Time Out place (Song Que) are unlikely to cross over the road to PSB as they have this or that within a few doors
instead .

The menu- it’s got Chinese (ok, just about forgivable, only just) and Thai dishes mingling with the usual Vietnamese standards. Now why would anyone want to have a Thai Green Curry or Tom Yum Soup in a Vietnamese restaurant. That is clearly a sign of desperation on PSB’s behalf and my initial expectations were extremely worrying.

PSB is around nine months old. One can tell by the décor that it’s still very young. Credit has to be given to PSB for the effort made to include an all-mod-cons take on the room. However having studied architecture, I find those chequered chairs misguided. We showed up on a Sunday evening, the restaurant was nearly empty save for a couple attempting to have romantic evening and a table of some lively Vietnamese folks chatting away (friends of the owners I dare say as they weren’t eating). The service from the lone waiter was exemplary, well he doesn’t have that many options left!

As always, Iced Vietnamese Coffee and Homemade Lemonade.
Both were ok and passable.

Oh how unusual, gratis prawn crackers.
Nice touch, but I'm not into Chinese prawn crackers (bland and I often wonder where the prawn flavour has disappeared to!), I find that the Thai and Indonesian versions are the best.

Not so always, Muc Chien Don or fried calamari.

PSB didn’t have either the bánh cuốn (filled rice rolls) or chả chiên (Vietnamese sausage) on their menus so we resorted to the squid dish instead. Well cooked tender pieces but the overall taste lacked kick. Just passable.

As always, the phở bò.

Good stock and the last minute addition of raw beef slices was certainly praiseworthy. The pho was let down, rather sacrilegiously, by the blanched noodles for sitting too long in a colander; you do not want clumps of noodles in your dish! Just passable.

As always, the bun thit nuong or vermicelli bowl.

This was the full monty version with Vietnamese spring rolls, and chargrilled of the following: sirloin steak, pork and chicken. This is one dish that’s consistent with all the other restaurants along the strip, it simply cannot go wrong and as a result, wonderful. Passed with flying colours.

PSB passed. Although it’s not in the same league as its illustrious neighbours, it can only get better, like the service it has no other choices and someone has to pay the rent. Best of luck PSB. Recommended with slight apprehensions.

97 Kingsland Road
London E2 8AH
I insisted on a receipt, one can't beat a hand-written one!


Hollow Legs said...

Have you tried Mama Pho in Deptford? They did excellent pork skin summer rolls.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Am I the first person to ask whether you'd do foodie tours of The Pho Mile? I haven't been to any of the restaurants there still. Just been too lazy to get there...

bellaphon said...

Lizzie- Yes I've been there once, just need a second visit to confirm my first meal at MP's.

HYL- Not really, but when you're up to it, DM me and we shall all turn Vietnamese. :)

Dbz88 said...

I totally agree with you about Rick Stein! The sights were incredible, but the presenter wasn't quite up to the response.

Keep up the lovely work!

bellaphon said...

Dbz88- hey thanks for commenting. I don't mind Stein generally, but he's too well tempered most of the time and an overdose of that can only encourage a finger-in-the-throat reaction!

Anonymous said...

mamapho is the best!!

Anonymous said...

"His facial response suggested was- oh didn't know phos came with garnishes"

FYI Pho only comes with garnishes in certain regions of Vietnam

Anonymous said...

i really disagree wiv wat u sed and i find that their pho is the best on kingsland road as well as way better than mama pho in deptford.