Sunday, 27 March 2011

My favourite Vietnamese

The restaurant is Viet Hoa. It was the first to appear on this stretch of Kingsland Road over a decade ago, with its signature red and white checked tablecloths, but you wouldn't recognise it now. It was a busy Friday evening and we hadn't booked: there was no room upstairs but it was no problem. We were accommodated in the funky basement complete with sunken astroturfed floor and legless chairs, which the restaurant rather ambitiously describe as 'garden tatami'. The bar itself is – not obviously – made entirely out of recycled materials including dried moss and park benches. Credit cards are accepted, although the prices are so reasonable that a meal here shouldn't break anyone's bank.

The staff here couldn't be sweeter. When I told our waitress I wanted to go to Vietnam, she wrote down a couple of places on the back of a receipt and then gave me her email address, urging me to get in touch for more information.

I got very excited because my cousins from Scotland let me order for all of us. I ordered a lot (see below) and it was all delicious. We really couldn't fault it. There was a small mistake and they didn't bring one of the starters and one of the main courses: chicken satay and drunken chicken with cloud ear mushrooms. But even that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we probably wouldn't have made it up the stairs if we had eaten any more.

Summer rolls,
Beef in betel nut
Crispy duck pancakes
Banh xeo - crispy pancake of prawns and vegetables

Stir fried prawns with bok choi
Vegetable noodles
Chicken with chilli & lemon grass
Beef with chilli & black bean sauce
Jasmine rice

'Beautiful' declared my husband's cousin, who was still talking about the prawn and bok choi dish two days later.

The parting shot on Viet Hoa's slick website says:
'We hope you enjoy the new East London. It's getting smarter.' Quite.