34-36 Wardour Street, Soho vietnamfood.co.uk
With the roar of jet engines still in his ears, Nick stops off on his way back from the Mall to eat a quick Vietnamese lunch.
I had to get down the mall for the RAF 100-year flypast, I love a flypast, but once it was over walking back to Greek Street wasn’t easy – my dear, the crowds! By the time we got to Wardour Street we felt like we had been swimming upstream for hours. We needed something stronger than a Cold n Wet sandwich to reward us.
So glancing at Wong Kei , which really isn’t the same since the 80s, not now they have ironic self-aware T shirts on the staff saying’upstairs upstairs!’, we crossed to Vietfood. As some of you may know, it’s the place of Ex-Hakkasan head chef Jeff Tan and thus on many people’s food radar
It’s not big inside, the decor that’s designed to make it resemble, I assume, a roadside eatery, makes it seem even smaller. Plus, it was packed out but there are apparently more floors up top’upstairs, upstairs?’.
Pho sho, pho wasn’t for me, I was hot enough. Also, pho is phine when dining alone but makes for difficult conversation when with others. It has to be consumed fast and talking is discouraged.
I’ve always liked Vietnamese squid, so ordered it here but it came calamari style; big, brutish rings in a kind of coconut batter with a sweet chili sauce on the side in a test tube as a nod to millennials.
The rings were alright, certainly not baby squids, juicy and sweet. I just don’t like squid rings though, reminds me of past mistakes in dodgy beachside Spanish restaurants.
More to my taste was chargrilled sirloin beef with noodles, finished off with cucumber, herbs, peanuts and a fish sauce on the side. Rather too much red onion for me, and not cooked quite enough either, but easily pushed to one side.
This had the springy, zingy flavours I expect from Viet street food. It also had some large herb leaves, one of which was a bit dry and threatened to choke me when it caught in my throat. A few slaps on the back solved that crisis. After that I was back to happily tweezering up the succulent morsels of meat.
Some tasty lemongrass chicken, partnered up with rice as sticky as I felt, was just right, the chicken a tad smoky and crispy on the outside, and with a salad that featured a refreshing slice of mango.
Not so successful for me was a dish of stir fried pork with vegetables, the pork was fine but I seemed to have a whole allotment’s worth of red onions with it. These were in large pieces and seemed to have only been briefly introduced to the wok, almost raw in fact.
This may well be how the dish is supposed to be done, but it didn’t do it for me. The pork was fine, rather good in fact, but those onions were a nuisance but luckily there was stir fried pak choi to up my vitamin intake.
That was it for a hasty lunch, and onions aside, well aside, it was a good experience. They were, literally, turning away people at the door so no problems with reputation or reviews.
The menu has a lot to pick and choose from; I’d definitely want to go back three or four times more, not just to be fair to the cooking by sampling it at various times, but to try some more of the dishes too.
I did, after all, just fly past. Boom, tish!