Vietcafé ~ Haymarket, LONDON

I’ve been really wanting to try some KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) but the place I had hand-picked to go to was closed for lunch on weekends (?!) so my friend Laura and I went for a Vietnamese instead.  I can’t recall ever tasting Vietnamese food apart from some fusion dishes at pan-Asian restaurants, so after some TripAdvisor research I found VietCafé.  The new restaurant opened in March, and aims to serve authentic cuisine, plus they have chopsticks labelled ‘hygienic’.

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We opted for the 2 courses for £10 (plus service charge) thinking we’d be faced with a limited menu but it includes everything on the à la carte apart from the sea bass main. I started with Nem Thit Tom, similar to spring rolls these were densely packed with a minced pork and prawn filling, wrapped in rice paper and fried.  They were served straight from the fryer, I could have done with them arriving a little cooler because when I’m served food, even if it’s too hot to hold with my fingers I seem to think it’s ok to eat.  Laura said it reminded her of a sausage roll, I agreed but a good sausage roll, accompanied by a nice Nuoc Mam dipping fish sauce and I splashed a bit of the trendy Sriracha chilli sauce on too.  Laura had the breadcrumbed prawns which were also good.

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For mains we both ordered beef dishes, Laura had the Pho soup and I had the Bo Luc Lac, sizzling beef in black pepper sauce.  Served with a nice carrot and radish salad garnish, the beef sauce was delicious, though some of the pieces of beef were a bit tough and overcooked from being sat on the sizzling, black plate and I greedily would have liked a couple more pieces.  We were happy with all our choices and something we noticed with everything served to us was the freshness.  It was the best value for immensely fresh food.

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Drinks-wise, we had Vietnamese lime lemonade, still and sparkling, and iced coffee with condensed milk.  The drinks were both chosen in the hope they’d replicate the Sri Lankan version, the lemonade just shy of the SL sharpness and the coffee lacking in intensity (and brandy) but they were really nice and refreshing, and I realise they weren’t trying to replicate the Sri Lankan version, even if I was trying to satisfy the craving.

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I feel like I’m being overly critical, it is a great find for a central London budget eat in it’s early months.  The interior is bright, clean and modern, the restaurant is a great alternative to chain restaurant meals for students with the dinner menu at 2 courses for £12 plus service.  If you’re in the theatre district, here’s the place for a pre/ post cheap bite.  In terms of authenticity, I’ll have to visit Vietnam before I could comment.

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