Vibrant, fresh and bursting with the flavours of lemongrass, ginger and mint, Vietnamese food has hit London in a big way. These days it’s easy to grab a bánh mì in Soho or a bowl of pho in Shoreditch. Read on to discover the best Vietnamese restaurants in the capital.
Restaurant, Vietnamese, $$$
Smack bang in the centre of London’s theatreland lies the glamorous Com Viet. You might pop in for a quick pre-theatre dinner, but once you’ve tried the delights on offer, you’ll be at risk of missing the show altogether. The wine selection is satisfying but not too pricey, while the decor is all dark wood and leather, complete with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Green Papaya’s two London branches – the original location on Mare Street in Hackney and the latest Kingsland Road addition – serve some of the best Vietnamese food in town. What makes the restaurant truly unique is that, as well as classic Vietnamese dishes like pho and bún, Green Papaya offers tasty, authentic specialities from the Chinese city of Xi’an, including fantastic, slippery hand-pulled noodles covered in chilli oil. The juxtaposition of the two cuisines works really well, and gives Green Papaya an edge over more traditional Vietnamese restaurants.
This Soho outpost, with its polished, contemporary decor, may look slicker than the original Cây Tre in Hoxton, but the menu still stars plenty of classic Vietnamese dishes – from regional pho to claypot mekong catfish. Hearty vermicelli and noodle bowls with pork, prawn, lobster and squid also feature, alongside satisfying veggie dishes such as okra and aubergine curry. Order to share so you can try as many of them as possible.
The third branch from Vietnamese culinary legend Bobby Chinn, The House of Hô’s sister restaurants can be found in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The flavours are authentically Vietnamese, but the dishes have had a decidedly modern update, with beautiful soft-shell crab, jasmine-smoked baby back ribs, popcorn shrimp and even a Vietnamese scotch egg on the menu. The focus is on sharing plates, but Hô also offers pho and other East Asian dishes such as dumplings, bao, sushi and sashimi.
Don’t be deceived by the appearance of this little restaurant. It may not look like much, but the unpretentious exterior hides an absolute jewel of a Vietnamese restaurant. The menu includes dishes local to the Mien Tay region and all are done to perfection, with the succulent beef, chargrilled quail and summer rolls particular highlights. As well as the Kingsland Road restaurant, Mien Tay has branches in Battersea, Fulham and Wood Green.
The star of Kingsland Road, the East London street known as Pho Mile for its abundance of Vietnamese restaurants, Sông Quê Café is filled with natural light and scores of diners enjoying satisfyingly crunchy rolls and beef with a kick of lemongrass. But it’s the pho that really gets people coming back time and time again, with the restaurant arguably serving the very best in the city. The generous portions and competitive pricing means the restaurant gets very busy on weekends and evenings.
Known affectionately as SIN, Salvation in Noodles refers to itself as a “Vietnamese noodle shack”. SIN serves flavourful noodle bowls, salads, snacks and some very tasty curries, together with a good selection of beers. It’s an unpretentious, fun place to eat, and the food is great value.
This casual Soho joint is one of three fast-food outlets by Vietnamese Kitchen, the group behind Cây Tre (the other two are in Shoreditch and the City). Pay a visit for the fresh bánh mì – bursting with barbecue pork, canton roast duck, coconut chicken curry or smoky aubergine and tofu – and stay for the prawn-stuffed summer rolls and steamed pork buns. Wash it all down with a Vietnamese drip coffee.