Review: 4th April 2017
Viet Café – Vietnamese Restaurant
Haymarket, London SW1Y 4DG
There are many reasons to visit Vietnam – the countryside, the cities, the beaches, the people, the culture… and the food. Trust me, if you have never been to Vietnam, it is worth visiting for the food alone! While all of the Far Eastern cuisines have their own distinctive traits, Vietnam’s stands apart. It is probably one of the least spicy, yet one of the most flavoursome. Probably among the freshest and most tasty salads you will ever eat, the iconic Pho, Banh Mi (baguettes) and herbs – lots of herbs. Overlaid with the legacy influences of colonisation by France from the mid-19th Century to 1954, the use of lemongrass, vietnamese mint, coriander, ginger, chilli, lime and basil leaves combined with nuoc mam (fish sauce), soy sauce, tamarind – these combine to create simple, yet sophisticated dishes and some of the best food I have ever eaten.
The Viet Café on the Haymarket in London exemplifies all that is great about Vietnamese cooking. The food produced by Chef Bihn from a tiny kitchen just sings with flavour and is lovely to look at. In the small upstairs dining room, you can hear the chopping of fresh herbs and vegetables with a minimum of fuss, you just know the food is going to taste good. The menu is short – mercifully, because I have difficulty in pronouncing some of the dishes. The wine list is short too – three whites, three reds, one sparkling – it’s unpretentious but offers wines that compliment the food and are very reasonably priced.
So on to the food. To kick things off, we had Goi Tum (Summer Rolls), Muc Rang Muoi (Salt & Pepper Squid) and Nem Ga Tong (Spring Rolls with chicken and prawns).
I can honestly say that the Squid is among the most delicious I have eaten anywhere in the world – I could sit down and eat a great big pile of this and never grow tired. It is delicately fried in the lightest of batter and seasoned to perfection. The Summer Rolls are fresh and you can feel yourself becoming healthier as you eat them! And then the Spring Rolls – the filling is a lovely combination of chicken, prawns and vegetables, bursting with flavour.
For our main courses we had Ca Vuoc Nuong (Chargrilled Sea Bass) and Bun Ga Xao (Stir-fried Lemongrass Chicken).
The Sea Bass was cooked to perfection, accompanied by steamed rice and a refreshing salad. The Lemongrass Chicken is a triumph – a lovely main course that packs a punch.
All washed down by a Vietnamese beer and a bottle of Chablis – what’s not to like?
A word on the waitresses in Viet Café. None of them are Vietnamese, in fact they mostly seem to hail from Eastern Europe – regardless, they are absolutely lovely – helpful, knowledgable and attentive. They are a credit to the restaurant!
When it comes to dining in the West End of London, the Viet Café is a perfect stop for a pre-theatre dinner or for a more leisurely affair. We’ve done both and love the place. This restaurant is a fantastic advert for what you can expect to eat if you are lucky enough to actually visit Vietnam.
Viet Café Details
Address: 23 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4DG
Telephone: 020 7839 3246