I’ve started a new job and there are many places a lot closer but I have been here a few times now and it’s worth the walk.
My first time I opted for the Banh Mi Dac Biet or Bay special (pork , pork roll & pate). The filling was quite good though I much preferred the filling at Hoi-An Banh Mi in Hackney, this seemed a bit restrained for my taste. Also they didn’t have any Vietnamese baguettes. They did when I went again and had the seabass banh mi (only one fillet, the filling to bread ratio was all wrong) and it really made a difference. If you put Hoi-An Banh Mi’s filling (Dac Biet) in a Banh Mi Bay Vietnamese baguette then I’d say that would be my favourite banh mi in London.
They also do weekly specials. The bun rieu that was on at the time was pretty good. Nice light but well flavoured broth. I would have liked more than one crab dumpling but it was very well flavoured. The pork patties were a bit dry but all in all a good bowl of noodle soup.
I went back a couple of weeks later hoping that bun rieu was that weeks special. Turned out it was bo kho. There is the option to have it with rice noodles or a baguette. Had to be a baguette. For what is essentially a beef stew the broth was quite light and very fragrant. Also all the beef was beautifully tender , often slow cooked beef is a bit of a lottery in a lot of Asian places in London. One piece beautifully tender the next tough as old boots. Not here. The wonderfully crisp Vietnamese baguette was perfect for mopping up the broth.
I simply love bun rieu cua ! First introduced to me by American friends in Paris back in 2000. They’d lived in Paris for nearly 20 years and had this favourite place at the Quartier Asiatique in the 13th arrondissement which served, in their words, “red pho”. I was intrigued, but fell in love with the dish on my first taste.
It was only 4 years later, when I came across the same dish again at Ho Chi Minh City’s busy Ben Thanh Market that I found out it was bun rieu and not pho.
Update. I popped in for lunch today. I haven’t been for a couple of weeks as I’ve been trying to go veggie during the week (apart from bacon club on a Friday at work). Well I was hankering after Vietnamese and I did intend to try and go veggie or at least have fish. I failed spectacularly. I’m blaming this on Fergus Henderson who I happened to walk past just before I got there and seeing him set my pork neurons firing.
i opted for the Bay special rice plate that had three types of pork, barbecued pork that was nicely cooked and had a nice bit of fat on it. Shredded caramel pork and the pièce de résistance, pork and crab meat loaf. The meatloaf was lovely and moist and the crab lent a lovely sweetness. So good was it I ordered and extra slice (normally a £2 but they gave it gratis, probably die to my effusiveness for it). Came with rice, pickled carrots etc and a very good fish sauce dipping sauce. The food has been good before this but this is the best dish I’ve had so far. I need to persuade them to create a Banh Mi using the meatloaf.
NB. Not my picture (couldn’t resist diving in)but same dish from Banh Mi Bay and looks exactly like my dish.
I work nearby too. In excellent timing for your post, I was out and about and tried a banh mi at kêu on Wednesday. Theirs were up near the very top of my London banh mi league table, I was pretty impressed.
Anyway yes, banh mi bay are pretty good. Coupled with the lovely park across the road where you can sit and eat it, all is good for summer lunchtimes in our neighbourhood!
Slight digression, but I’ve been working here for ages and it’s about time I share some other things worth trying out nearby, not only for @paprikaboy but also in case others find themselves in the neighbourhood and want a tip. There are heaps of good options, but these are on my mind now:
Exmouth market has some good stuff, though places keep opening and closing so it’s hard to keep track. On the more sit-down side, Morito is awesome, as is Quality Chop House if you find yourself with more time for their set lunch. For the market stalls, the Ghanaian has some tasty stews to grab quickly. The tartiflette stall really hits the spot if feeling hungover or needing a big, oily hug when sick.
Leather Lane I’ve never been that excited about - the stalls range from awful to reasonably good. Best of the many felafel wrap shops for me is Chick (though also the most expensive!) Mugen Japanese restaurant down the bottom looks interesting, but I’ve never been in.
Luce et Limone used to do really outstanding pasta, with a decor far more opulent than their pricing. Though I haven’t been in a while to see if they’ve preserved their standards. Across the road is Otto’s for the ultimate, blow-out, £160 pressed duck!
Next to Banh Mi Bay is the Dayrooms, which looks intriguing with Aussie brunch food, but I haven’t tried it yet (it’s a bit odd as I think there isn’t much seating).
Slightly longer walking, Moi An has some pretty good (though not huge sized) banh mi. They are related to City Caphe I believe. Chilli Cool is up towards Kings Cross if you fancy Sichuanese.
If you cook, there is an excellent butcher on Theobalds Road, called McKanna meats. The place is like a tardis, so if you want something you don’t see, just ask. Doubly useful with game season upon us.
I like the look of the beer snacks and izakaya menu at Mugen (amused at the inclusion of sausage and chips). I went there many years ago when it was Tajima-Tei, but I think it’s completely new ownership now.
Thanks Dean. I have considered Quality Chop House, though I don’t think I’d have enough time for lunch to make it worthwhile. I went to Chilli Cool the second day I started my new job .I work on Brunswick Square an it’s only a few minutes walk. I’ve been before with a few people and so could sample a fair bit of the menu, I really enjoyed it (the dry fried beans with pork was very good). Solo it’s a different proposition and I had a pretty mediocre dan dan noodles when I went.
Around where I work I’ve tried Hare and Tortoise at the Brunswick Centre(Tantanmen , ok broth ,not hot enough despite 3 chilis on the menu but the noodle were very overcooked).
China House on Marchmont St. Standard Cantonese place. They have a lunch special for £6 or £7. There’s a wide choice of dishes and a free soup (don’t bother gloopy takeaway style stuff). Not great but their beef brisket is beautifully tender and a proper amount of fat. The sauce was a bit can’t quite place the flavour ,sweet, vaguely Chinese. However if I go back I’ll ask if they can do it with a curry sauce which would be great.
Also on Marchmont St, is Arla Health Store. A good option if you want vegetarian. It;s a serve yourself buffet style operation charged by the size of container you have. Their spinach lasagne is pretty good as is their green beans with cinnamon.
On Theobalds Road is Hozi, a Korean place. Pretty disappointed. Very tough bbq beef ribs and the pickles and kimchi were mediocre.
You can probably see why I walk 10 mins to Banh Mi Bay.
Is Tongue and Brisket still on Leather Lane? I liked it when I went.
On my to do list but finding someone who want’s to go halves for that kind of money is proving tricky.
Yep. I popped in again a few weeks back. It seemed good quality but like you I found the meat a little dry for my taste. I’d have preferred less quantity of fattier meat.
Roti king is about the same distance from you as banh mi bay. I’d give that a go if you haven’t been - best roti canai I’ve had in the uk. It can get very busy, but if you dash over before 12:30 on a weekday it’s normally easy to get a seat.
The pressed duck at Otto’s is a delight, I think the price has gone up a fair bit since we had it if it’s now £160.
Keep meaning to go back to Roti King, I went once a few years back when it first opened and it was easily the best roti canai I’ve had in the UK. It was good at Sedap but alas that is no more.
And kêu is indeed pretty dependable for banh mi. I frequent their Moorgate shop and it’s perpetually busy. The bread is always crisp and they have a few options if you want something other than the classic. They have a good range of roasted meats that you can also have as a rice bowl. I haven’t got around to trying any of their noodle soups, maybe once the weather finally turns.
I’ve been to Roti KIng quite a few times and agree the roti canai is really good. I’ve also had their nasi lemak which is not so good. I’ve tried nasi lemak in 6 or 7 places in London and Tukdin had the best. I have thought about going for lunch but I’ve tried a few times for dinner and the queue has always been pretty big (I walked past about 6:30 yesterday and it must have been 15 peole long. Good to know that if I go early enough at lunch I should get a seat.
I did try to see if Roti King were on Deliveroo and found this.
I normally get the bus home but can go via Victora so this will be quite handy.
Tongue and brisket have partioned off a little corner of their restaurant, and there’s a stall onto the street selling bagels with hot fillings. The mushroom one was really very good, I’m keen to try some of the other flavours.