Once a upon a time, those who wanted a warming bowl of pho went to Kingsland Road. The sheer volume of Vietnamese restaurants lining this east London street is comforting, if not a touch overwhelming. Now, it’s possible to find fresh, flavourful ingredients and cosy Vietnamese restaurants and cafes all over London. There’s no denying the thrill to be had in finding a great local place within walking distance of one’s own sofa.Read More
Where to Eat Vietnamese Food in London
Classic, aromatic pho, barbecued lemongrass pork, crispy chilli squid — and more
Nem Nem is a modern Vietnamese restaurant with impressive vegan options — offering plant-based alternatives to almost everything on the regular menu. The Vietnamese chicken salad is a standout: a well balanced mix of complex flavours and fresh herbs. Don’t miss the Hanoi sweet potato cake with prawns — a moreish regional dish that’s hard to find on the average menu.
Those who have a Vietnamese grandmother will recognise the whole steamed sea bass with soy sauce, ginger and onions. Or the iconic cha ca la vong dish from Hanoi, fish marinated with herbs, served with vermicelli noodles, and traditional shrimp sauce — grilled tableside. Dark and inviting, it’s the perfect place to come in from the cold for a warming bowl of classic beef pho noodle soup.
Sông Quê Café
This busy corner restaurant is packed full on the weekends for a reason. It’s the ideal place to have a spirited group dinner on a Friday night — for those who don’t mind the crowds. Brisk and efficient, it’s impossible to go wrong with its greatest hits: crispy chilli squid, grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf, traditional Vietnamese pancake with prawn and chicken. And of course, the pho.
Bánh Bánh Brixton
A Brixton outpost of the original family-run Peckham restaurant, the brightly modern interior belies its traditional roots. With recipes inspired by a grandma who worked as a chef in Saigon, the flavours are well balanced and the ingredients fresh and local. The popular bun bo hue, thick vermicelli noodles in a hot and spicy beef bone broth, is aromatic, uplifting, and perfect for winter. The sticky fish sauce glazed wings pack a lot of flavour without being overwhelming.
Serving homestyle Vietnamese food in a quiet corner of Islington, Viet Garden is so unassuming from the outside, it’s easy to walk right past it. Surprisingly spacious and comfortable, this is where to go if in search of a warming bowl of phở in N1. Served with all the classic trimmings — bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and lemon — the broth is richly satisfying, the service friendly and attentive. The wafer wrapped seafood in rice paper and crispy spring rolls with mince pork and prawn were both incredibly moreish.
Bánh Mì Kêu Deli City
Does a queue always mean it’s good? In the case of Bánh Mì Kêu Deli, yes it does. Nestled between Moorgate and Liverpool Street, the queues are always out the door come lunchtime. The baguettes are perfectly light and crispy and served warm — with a choice of filling from original (four different kinds of pork and homemade paté) and pork shoulder, to the more non-traditional duck, coconut curry chicken, or smoked aubergine. Find them in Shoreditch and Soho, too.
Bánh Mì Hội-An
What is the best bacon and egg sandwich in London? Regency? Pellicci? St John? No. It’s the no 8 special (extra spicy) at Banh Mi Hoi An, located on a side street near Hackney Central. Not a single banh mi stall in London quite nails the the optimal lightness of the baguette, but Hoi An’s is soft, crisp, well toasted, and weapon-ready vast. The Hoi An special has both sweet char siu and thinly sliced pork belly, with little pockets of wobbly omelette coddling the meat; pickles cut through the richness in the manner of a sharp brown sauce. Aside from the egg and bacon, the beef ball curry banh mi is excellent when the chef has it on — needless to say, with the lack of any competition, it’s also the best meatball sub in this city.
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Pho Thuy Tay Cafe
On Old Kent Road, Vietnamese students fill the restaurant’s five tables in anticipation of Hanoi deep cuts: frog-leg hot pots; deep-fried duck tongues; herbal, rare beef salads; or blood sausage — boiled or fried — formed from pale-marble boudins that float on the surface of the cooking pot like a herd of fat harbour seals bobbing in the sea.
Eat Vietnam Bar B Grill
99 times out of 100 something described as “juicy lamb from the grill” is going to be profoundly boring, yet at Eat Vietnam on Evelyn Street — the locus of the area’s latest flowering of great Vietnamese restaurants — it’s a proper Barnsley chop, marinated to the bone and rendered properly so the last bite of crispy, caramel fat is the sweetest, most satisfying bite of the evening. A fried sea bream comes on its belly in a beautiful chainmail of silver skin, still opalescent inside once the jerky exterior is peeled back. The head is picked at until the bill arrives. Not a word of criticism is aimed at a simple dish of morning glory from connoisseurs of the vegetable. What is Eat Vietnam doing differently to most of the places on Kingsland Road? The answer is simple: the owners still care.
The best pho in London may actually be on a street between Elephant and Castle and Borough that contains little else of note, at Rao Deli run by Trang Nguyen and Nhan Van Mac. There are pho that emphasise clarity and herbal aromatics: not this. This is a big beefy brute of a pho, simmered for 20 hours, full of liquid marrow with a slightly charred note that tastes like licking a cow in the best possible way. It is served without herbs, which may annoy purists, but actually it doesn’t need them. From the rice bowls, the pork belly is thick cut and generous, finished under the grill to order for about fifteen minutes to puff up the crackling — it beats most of the Cantonese siu yuk joints in Chinatown and Queensway.
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Hoa Phuong on the upper end of Walworth Road is one that adheres to all the cliches about mythic diaspora restaurants. Unassuming exterior? Check. One old aunty cooking? Check. Small blackboard menu and odd opening hours? Double check. But owner Phuong’s bun bo hue here puts almost everyone else’s to shame, a deep fiery broth with a marine funk from fermented shrimp paste, herbal, citrus, spicy, umami all in harmony, with well cooked beef meat and Hue sausage. The pork on rice or in summer rolls is done well here, with aggressive caramelisation and crusted with thinly chopped lemongrass, and the beef with pickled vegetable is an exceptional stir fry, but after one bowl of bun bo hue, the only temptation is to order another.
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Cafe Mama Pho
Opened in 2014 by members of the family behind Cafe East — which occupied this site before it moved to a Surrey Quays car park — Cafe Mama Pho is a stalwart for its crystalline rendition of the soup that gives its name, as well as a bun bo hue which balances oily heat with the umami hum of fish sauce. Soup-seekers know where to go.