Friday, 4 September 2009

Cà Phê VN

Typing this post at the crack of dawn with the aid of being kept awake by the most obvious drug is appropriate. It’s fair to say that I go to Broadway Market every weekend but I’ve never actually been to the market itself when it comes to life only on Saturdays. The one and only opportunity I did make it, I headed straight to the Vietnamese coffee stall which has managed to establish a pilgrimage status for itself.

Like the market, Cà Phê* VN was bustling and busy. It evoked memories of my childhood trip to Saigon before it fell in 1975; if it wasn’t for the ambient sounds of English spoken and the lack of gutter perfume, Cà Phê VN wouldn’t look out of place in a typical Vietnamese street or market.

The abundance of dollhouse stools and tables dotted around the stall are a welcome attempt to create an authentic feel.

Vietnamese coffee is widely distributed in South East Asia but has yet to make an impact in the West. The best coffee beans that hail from Vietnam's Central Highlands (Buôn Ma Thuột being the capital city) are often medium roasted and best described as reminiscent of Sumatra coffee but seemingly smoother with its mocha-y undertones. Cà Phê VN is a youngish company that’s run by a delightful couple and the main core of their business is importing this wonderful drinking beverage into Britain. I hope they thrive as it’s high time that good Vietnamese coffee gain a foothold within our drinking habits.

I started with a Long White (Cà Phê VN’s own diction). This is straight drip coffee with the addition of condensed milk. Unfortunately I’ve tasted better made by the various restaurants on The Pho Mile, this version was too wishy-washy and less water added would’ve been preferable. With hindsight I should’ve opted for the Ca Phe Sua instead (espresso with condensed milk). That said, latte drinkers should appreciate this more than myself.

The lovely and utterly friendly young ladies who prepared my lunch.

The next big thing to take London by storm is the Vietnamese sarnie of Bánh mì. The Vietnamese baguette (the real thing should be made out of both wheat and rice flour) based sandwiches stand out with their herby and meat filling.

I went for the ‘take no prisoners’ No 3 Triple Meat. The fillings consisted of chicken, pork liver pate, roast pork, pickled carrot, white radish, coriander and hot sauce. What stood out for me was the freshness of the bread, the thought of the Vietnamese baking better baguettes than the French is similar to our antipodean friends concocting a better cappuccino than the Italians stirs me up. The hot sauce wasn’t hot, the addition of fresh bird's eye chilli would do the trick nicely. Otherwise a pretty good effort.

Owner Rob Atthill showing me his scrapbook of all the positive reviews from the press.

I ended my visit with a serving of one of the costliest coffees this side of the universe. The ‘journey through the entire guts of the civet cat’ coffee set me back a fiver.

The aroma was profound and it far exceeded the taste. Perhaps the coffee would make a bigger impression if the beans were ground finer and paper filters used as opposed to the quaint stainless steel one shown. I’ve now tasted most of the rare coffees to include the above, Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak (another civet phenomenon from Indonesia); but none of them can touch my favourite of single estate beans from Papua New Guinea.

I do like this stall a lot and how I wish I can come here more often on a Saturday. But at least I’ve been and I can wholeheartedly endorse a recommendation.

* The Vietnamese and the Cantonese share this same pronunciation for coffee; it’s simply uttered as café.

Broadway Market
London E8


Unknown said...

The Vietnamese machiato - Ca Phe Sua - is indeed delicious and when I was there, they were giving out free lotus tea while you waited for it to be made.

Su-Lin said...

A kind of related question - I bought one of those coffee filters when I was last in Vancouver but I think I used it incorrectly my first time. How long did the coffee take to complete its drip down to your cup? It also looks like they gave you quite a bit whereas instructions I've found say 1 tbsp of coffee?

bellaphon said...

Hi Rachel- Thanks, I'll give the Ca Phe Sua a try next I'm there.

Su-Lin- Drip time is completed within two mins. 2 tbsp always and medium ground should suffice.