If your fave dim sum spot is too packed to ring in the Year of the Dog this weekend, why not pop into one of our favourite Vietnamese restaurants instead? The Vietnamese New Year, Tết, is celebrated the same weekend and often overshadowed by its ubiquitous Chinese counterpart. If you’re lucky, there will be some delicacies on offer to celebrate the new year. The Pho restaurants are said to be handing out random red envelopes with surprise gifts to punters. Slurp slurp.
Mien Tay might as well be known as Main Stay due to its veteran status on the Kingsland Rd strip. Boasting locations in Battersea and Fulham, we love the family vibes at these restaurants, the super affordable menu and their beefy muc rang muoi (salt & pepper squid) is a must-order.
Mrs Le’s Banh Mi and Grill
We had to include new entrant Mrs Le’s on this list as our recent visit was just so excellent. The menu takes a detour from your standard noodle/pho stuffs and focuses instead on a variety of freshly grilled meat dishes designed for sharing. It’s a new outpost from the Le family (see Mien Tay above) is worth the drive to Clapham! Go for the crispy pork belly platter and its clean lettuce and herbal adornments reminiscent of the Korean ssam style.
178 Lavender Hill, SW11 3TQ
It might be a little off the beaten track, but this family-run Mare Street Vietnamese is well worth the extra mile. Noticeably cheaper than some of its contemporaries, flavour-wise, Hai Ha always comes up trumps – the rich pho broth topped with melt-in-the-mouth beef brisket and mountains of accoutrements is imperative. Don’t bother with takeaway – dishes are best enjoyed in this cosy little joint, washed down with your own booze. Service might not be overly effusive, but you will be won over by the hostess’s plate of fresh oranges, served with the bill. This, plus the standard of food, will have you heading for Hai Ha time and time again.
206 Mare St, E8 3RD
Megan Carnegie Brown
Banh Mi Bay
If you’re after an authentic-tasting Banh Mi, look no further than Banh Mi Bay in Holborn. A casual setting with a laid-back vibe, serving an array of classic dishes. Go for the Chargrilled Satay Chicken Banh Mi: peanutty deliciousness encased in a light and airy traditional Vietnamese baguette, freshness coming from the pickled veg, and a fiery kick from the chilli. One word: yum.
4-6 Theobalds Rd, Holborn, WC1X 8PN
Song Que is probably the Daddy of all the restaurants on London’s Pho Mile in Shoreditch – and not just because of its size – check out the queues out the door every weekend. Song Que’s continuing popularity comes entirely from the food (service can be curt, so be warned), which is both fresh and flavoursome in true Vietnamese style. Try the Soft Shell Crab for a delicately chewy morsel to begin with and then the Chicken In Tamarind Sauce for the perfect mixture of tartness and sweetness. Go on, you deserve it.
134 Kingsland Rd, E2 8DY
Queues out of the door, BúnBúnBún is a popular no-frills joint on Kingsland Road, friendly and relaxed. Don’t leave without trying Bún Chả Hà Nội: moreish pork patties and grilled pork served in a meaty, tangy broth, with rice vermicelli noodles and salad. A gutsy, stand-out dish. With an abundance of Vietnamese places in this area, BúnBúnBún gets my vote.
134B Kingsland Road, London E2 8DY
These guys have scaled exponentially across the country, but still maintain incredibly fresh flavours, consistent quality and cozy-contemp interiors at each outpost. My fave order is a Bún Huế soup – similar to pho, but with a spicy paste added and rounded vermicelli noodles rather than flat pho noodles. The bun bowls are also great with high marks going to those damn delicious nem nuong pork balls.
CôBa is effortlessly cool, you’re immediately drawn in by its industrial-chic interior. Don’t miss the prawn toast starter: trust us, it’s unlike any prawn toast you’ve ever had before. For main, Spiced BBQ Chicken Noodle Salad is bursting with flavour, adorned with deliciously charred yet juicy meat. It’s worth the journey to this no-man’s land stretch of Kings Cross.
244 York Way, N7 9AG