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Ohhhh... happy days.

Whilst perusing Manchester Confidential, the increasingly random lifestyle website for Manchester, I noticed a review for a new Vietnamese cafe called Vnam. Big tick number one - I love Vietnamese food; big tick number two - it was two minutes walk around the corner from my office.

And fair do's to Man Con, they've turned up a diamond in the rough (well, Miles Platting/Collyhurst) here.

It's sited in a conventional main road Victorian terrace shop front, amongst a mixed bag of hairdressers, off licenses and Thai beauty palours. It's on Oldham Road and faces the massive Wing Yip cash and carry (incorporating the Glamorous restaurant, where I rate the dim sum though Jay Rayner wasn't convinced) and the Royal Mail Depot.

The recent fit out is basic - simple counter at the back, cheap catering furniture, recessed spots, re-skimmed walls, a few framed Vietnamese landscapes - with the only interesting feature being a row of about twelve waist high plug points along the side-wall which makes me think the unit might previously have been a hairdresser.

It is though spotless, tidy and welcoming, light and airy, with a sofa and papers to wait whilst you pick up takeaways, and a friendly staff of young Vietnamese lads. The kitchens are hidden away, out of sight and smell, downstairs. Each table comes with a full set of condiments (traditional chilli sauce, fish sauce etc) and a laminated and limited menu which seems to tick all the traditional and crown-pleasing options:

Pork skewers, BBQ lamb chops, BBQ pork chops BBQ quail (notice a theme here?), fried squid or prawns, spring rolls, spicy frogs legs, pho of all descriptions, savoury pancakes, salads of chicken, prawn or lotus root and more besides. The prices are spot on, with starters at £4-£5:50 and mains around £5-£7 (the meats etc served with appropriate salad and noodles).

I've been twice in two days; first time a reccie on my own, and today with colleagues in tow. Yesterday I went for the Bun Bo Hue, a Vietnamese style spicy beef noodle soup. Delicious, it came with a plate of salad to stir in (with lashings of chilli and fish sauce) - heat in the nose, good rich broth and tasty chunks of cheap cuts of beef (a bit of gristle or fat is good for the soul I reckon).

A return visit today saw two colleagues go for soups again (one chicken, and the other beef similar to mine) whereas my business partner went for the very traditional pancake (omelette filled with shrimp, pork and beansprouts and served with spicy fish sauce) which was awesome - two big fat folded omelettes, well seasoned and well stuffed, which is all one could ask for.

I reckon I picked the winner though, BBQ pork served with a pile of sticky thread-like rice noodles and salad. The pork itself was well flavoured with spices and herbs and had then been barbequed - not just "grilled", but properly barbequed, with blackened caught bits and crispy edges - and was just outstanding. The meat itself was slices of some fatty cut, maybe belly, and really carried the flavour and had responded well to the charring.

Accompanying that we split two portions of summer rolls, incredibly delicate rice paper-wrapped things filled with rice noodles, prawn, pork and coriander with a piquant dipping sauce. As the name implies they were incredibly light and summery, to the point that one of our party felt compelled to shout out "Picnic!" the minute she tasted them.

The soups were £5 and £6 and were BIG portions, the double omelette was £5, the pork £5 and the summer rolls £3 for two. Mental, mental pricing, but they seem serious about it; it doesn't seem the sort of place that is set up to elevate it's prices the minute the critics have been through the doors...

Drinks were good too - no license (though the manager grabbed us and said - "If you want to bring wine or beers that's fine, we'll just charge you £1 or something") but lots of quirky and traditional Asian drinks (water with aloe vera bobbing in it, that sort of thing). Apparently they do something unusual with coffee and condensed milk too.

My favourite twist to the place is that although their core market is the burgeoning local Vietnamese community as a new business (particularly one in such delicate economic climes) they couldn't ignore the ready market of postal shift workers across the road and therefore also have a small menu of "English" food - Cottage pie and chips, all day breakfast, burgers, lasagne etc.

Actually my favourite favourite twist is the fact that the waiter went out of his way to tell us about the breakfast and proudly opined that it was the best in town! A gang of Vietnamese lads who were in whilst we were hoovered their way through a load of the traditional dishes and then ordered full English breakfasts to finish, so maybe he's right...

This place is a low-fi low-key gem, and is already a new favourite for me. It's open lunch till 10pm most days, and if you're around the Northern Quarter and fancy a five minute stroll out of town for some heart-warmingly unpretentious, honest and delicious food then I heartily recommend it.

Cheers

Thom

Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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The you'll be delighted to hear that there is already another Vietnamese place in town - Bubbles Cafe on Portland St near Red Chilli, which is more of a casual lunch place but also got a great review on Man Con - and (unconfirmed) rumours of a third Vietnamese operation opening on Shudehill opposite Cafe North (possibly where the ill-fated Nosh used to be?).

Happy days indeed!

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I missed this one on Manchester Confidential perhaps because being constantly bombarded by them I tend to skip some of the reviews.

Still thanks are in order(to you) for pointing this place out, looks like missing Red Chilli and Red n Hot are in order to give this one a punt,

Sounds very good indeed.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Another return visit, this time with my better half and my youngest in tow (who was half-asleep, and insistently wearing a pair of blue sunglasses despite the overcast nature of the day).

It was a quiet lunchtime, though there were another couple in when we arrived, complete with small child, and they all seemed to know the owners who popped in to say hello. Freindly service as always. Although not something I would expect or indeed wish for in a more refined dining experience I was also delighted to see they had the flat screen TV on the end of the bar counter fired up with Disney Clubhouse flickering silently away.

For those of you without kids (or maybe just without MY kids) let me make clear that an hour long dinner where you and your partner can talk properly without interuption and appreciate the food as adults whilst your kid mechanically shovels food into his mouth, silent and spellbound by the power of TV, face set like a slackjaw troglodyte (to quote Mr Burns), can be a rare and wonderful treat...

Anyhow, on to the food.

We started with summer rolls alone as sadly they were all out of spring rolls. These tasted as good as last-time, and although weirdly they seemed to have bumped up the filling (more prawn and pork - the previous sparseness of which was noted in the Man Con review) they did end up a little lumpy and untidy. Possibly prepared by a less skilled hand? Ah well, give me flavour over aesthetics any day.

Our request for prawn crackers to keep the little one ticking over was happily dealt with, even though they don't appear as sole items on the menu, only as an accompaniment to a certain dish. The crackers themselves were spankingly fresh, still shimmering with oil and hot to the touch as they hit the table, and did the job perfectly (though they did make me want a beer).

For mains we decided to over-order slighly and went for three dishes - the BBQ pork, the BBQ chicken and the pancake.

The pork was as good as last time, for me this is the stand-out dish (especially the crushed peanuts sprinkled on top). The pancake seemed maybe a little greasier than last-time, and although crispy on the outside the layer of batter/mix seemed thick and was still runny on the inside where it met the filling of pork and prawns and beansprouts. Not sure if this was intentional but Sophie was not convinced by the texture.

Note to anyone who tries the pancake (which I like) - lashings of chilli sauce are the way to go, the egg/spice interaction is kind of like an Asian huevos rancheros.

The chicken was a beast, about half a bird I think, and although nicely charred on the outside (and slashed deeply to get the flavourings in the meat) it was actually still juicy within and pulled off the bones beautifully. I liked it, though it was more like a simple BBQ chicken taste than anything spicier or more exotic (unless you dipped it in the fish/soy/chilli/coriander sauce mix).

Portions again were huge, and each dish was accompanied by a very decent pile of rice of fine noodles, plus some basic salad.

In fact the chicken/rice/salad dish - which seems perfect for more unadventurous/picky child diners - was so big we estimated that if we made a return visit with both our boys and Soph's best mate with her six year-old we could easily split it three ways for the kids and they'd all be full and satisfied. That would work out about £1.75 per portion for a healthy, tasty kids meal (as opposed to about £6 a pop for an excreable children's lunch of limp sandwiches and shit fruit salad at Legoland the other week).

The whole meal, which frankly we struggled to finish, along with three soft drinks was £23. Amazing value for such delicious, nutricious, plentiful food.

We'll be back again soon. Maybe even tomorrow. And next time I'm not sharing my pork.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Just by the by, Thom, I wondered if you knew if there's any significant Vietnamese community in the metro area or if this is likely to be a bit of lone outpost sort of thing?

John Hartley

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Interesting point actually, and one we've discussed within the office. My business partner is as East Manchester as they come (grew up in Beswick/Clayton, family from Ancoats, girlfriend from Collyhurst etc) and he has commented several times that there are a lot of Vietnamese familes moving into East Manchester (from Miles Platting out as far as Blackly and Gorton).

Also that Cash and Carry (is it Wing Yip?), although Chinese in ownership, obviously tends to serve all sorts of Asian foodservice operators (Indian, Pakistani, Thai etc) and thus a number of other related Chinese/Asian businesses have sprung up on the surrounding streets to take advantage of the specific ethnic football such a big operation must attract.

I'm guessing like them VNam is partly feeding off that, though it's owners are definitely Vietnamese and I'm sure I read in the original review that most of the current diners tend to be friends and family and are thus also likely to be Vietnamese. What with those diners plus adventurous city centre folk, inquisitive foodies and a stream of posties they might just have a viable business there.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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The one on Oldham Street? A mere five minutes stroll! Don't lose your nerve as you're trekking up Oldham Road though, it's slightly further than Wing Yip, just past the HSBC on the right hand-side.

Summer rolls and BBQ pork would be my tip, but the phos are good too.

On your way back into town stick your head into the Marble Bar on Thomas St which opened yesterday. Teeny-tiny but a nice space, and a fantastic set of beers on sale including three of the main Marble brews.

Cheers

Thom

Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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didnt see your message before i left, the wonderful internet connection didnt help either!

i went for the bbq quail and then the spicy beef and pork noodle soup and 2 lemonades. £14

awesome stuff, had to wait for the quail to cool down before i could it eat it which wasnt the easy thing in the world as i was famished but it was absolutely lovely. 2 quail cut in half and bbq-ed for £6.50?? bargin.

the soup was also huge full of noodles lots of cuts of beef and pork, bean sprouts, chillis, lettuce. so lovely and fresh. the chap recommended having some sriracha sauce in there as thats what he does, really nice, so good but couldnt eat it all.

i can easily see myself going back before i leave.

went to walrus for a few cocktails afterwards the food coming out didnt look too bad and cocktail are BOGOF 4-7 weekdays so it was happy days!

manchester is awesome.

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The pancake seemed maybe a little greasier than last-time, and although crispy on the outside the layer of batter/mix seemed thick and was still runny on the inside where it met the filling of pork and prawns and beansprouts. Not sure if this was intentional but Sophie was not convinced by the texture.

Is this a yellow pancake made with turmeric and coconut milk (a Hue Pancake or Bahn Xeo Chay). I understand the secet to their success is to cook them in quite a dry pan, if you don't they are greasy. However they are only cooked on one side for crispness and the centre should be soft.

Coincidently they were on the "Australian Masterchef" this week. Here a contestant had to go head to head with a chef (Luke Nguyen - "Secrets of the Red Lantern" cookbook etc) and after a demo, cook three of his dishes including these pancakes. The judges then blind tasted both sets of dishes, Luke scrapped through after the contestant did a pretty good job.

My wife has set these as part of my recipe challenge for the weekend.

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I thought that we had eaten at Glamorous restaurant at some time in the past. As soon as I passed it I remembered the car park, the Wing Yip cash and carry and the bustling weekend service. I do not however remember the dining experience.

"Oldham Road is left or right at the lights,I would go left if I was you"

This really is a grungy part of Manchester, but isn't that most of the City?

I'm thirty meters past the place to notice it on the opposite side of the road.

Cafe sums it up to a tee, in your wildest dreams would you stumble on this place. In honesty I looked up Bubbles and this place on Manchester Confidential and Bubbles scored higher but the menu is heavily weighted to noodle dishes which is mostly a no no to her indoors, so here we are.

The prominent feature of the room is the fifty inch flat screen TV playing a video of a Vietnamese pop star, but he was performing to a sound track from another source.

"Can we have the BBQ Quail please"

"Sorry, we have sold out"

"Bugger, we have driven a long way for the Quail"

"Sorry bout that, what about the Pork or the Lamb Chops?"

"OK, the Lamb Chops it is"

"I think the Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls need to be tasted"

"Sorry, we don't have any left", but why not try the Summer Rolls?

Well, yes the summer rolls were fine,pork, shrimp, noodles, beansprouts & herbs teasingly wrapped in diaphanous rice paper. Nouc Cham dipping sauce helped lift the blandness .I was worried my taste buds were playing tricks with me, could it be the diet coke? (no drinks licence)

A step up thankfully were the Salt and Pepper King Prawn interspersed with spring onion green and sliced red chilli. My wife counted eleven, and true to her fairness split the dish into five and a half each. I just hope our marraige lasts as at this point I clutched my balls at the thought of losing half of my wealth. A truly sobering thought.

The Bahn Xeo, a savoury Pancake, again with shrimp, pork, and beansprouts was invitingly tasty served with a side of crispy lettuce topped with a coriander bush. The same Nouc Cham sauce appeared and we were told to tip the sauce over the Pancake which most certainly helped the dish.

The BBQ Lamb Chops again had the dipping sauce and the lettuce garnish but had a welcoming mound of boiled rice.

Not much happening Orientally so to speak with the chops, a touch over cooked but tasty enough, my caveman instincts were catered for as the charred flesh was first ripped and then devoured in much haste.

Most folks at this stage would be stuffed as the portions are truly generous to a t. And we were just about there.

I could'n't help but notice the bowls of Noodle soup at another table when we took our seats and assured by the waiter (owner) that if we struggled to finish it he would doggie bag it for us. We nodded in approval.

We chose the chicken, which was a huge cauldron of the longest sloppiest noodles, (slurp, slurp,)swimming in a base stock featuring fish sauce, ginger, star anise? spring onion and a mini forest of green herbs like coriander, spring onion green and ? A small side plate of sliced red chilli, beansprouts, holy basil and lemon wedge was provided to add to the broth as and when desired.

We did struggle and ate the rest of the soup today.

I'm not quite convinced that the subtle flavours of Vietnam are for me, enjoyable though it was it was no better than I can produce at home.

The owner did say his wife was the only one producing the food and that was the deciding factor in the simplicity of what they served, it can certainly be described as home style.

There is an annoying repetition to the ingredients which hopefully they will address as the place develops

We travelled quite a distance to eat here but we really are the exception, most people would not be bothered to cross town to try it out. The best that I can say is that if you fancy a Viet fix give it a try, but only if your local.

One bonus about a visit here is the Wing Yip supermarket virtually across the road. Stock up on all kinds of oriental foodstuffs. If your feeling in the mood for a luxurious treat choose your own live lobster or crab from the tank. We bought a pack of Quail, some prepared clams for a chowder later on this week. Also some deboned Duck, frozen Whitebait which we deep fried yesterday (how very seventies)etc,etc.

Total for the above including a generous tip

£27.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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i do agree i wouldnt trek up from the midlands (where i generally reside) to go there but if im in town (which i was) i would go there. northern quarter is some what out of the way but easy enough to get to by car seeing as you dont have to faff around trying to find a place to park.

nice to have places like that just round the corner from your office. i wonder if the menu will change alot?

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Is this a yellow pancake made with turmeric and coconut milk (a Hue Pancake or Bahn Xeo Chay). I understand the secet to their success is to cook them in quite a dry pan, if you don't they are greasy. However they are only cooked on one side for crispness and the centre should be soft.

My wife has set these as part of my recipe challenge for the weekend.

I am almost sure that's what it is, as we'd comment on the fact the strong yellow colour must be down to tumeric, but to be honest I hadn't noticed any coconut taste coming through. I liked it, but as stated my girlfriend was less convinced.

David, I'm sorry you weren't blown away but as Eatenmess said (and as I hope my initial post made clear) this place is a godsend as a convinient neighbourhood place - cheap, honest, friendly service and tasty and interesting food - rather than the sort of culinary epithany you'd make a hundred mile pilgrimage too. I still reckon if you like Viernamese food and find yourself in the city centre than it's a belting little gaff.

And Eatenmess I do hope they rotate the menu, as I'm going to be whipping through the existing dishes at a rate of knots and they say variety is the spice of life (though saying that I still tend to have the hot poached lamb at Red Chilli every other time I go...). I think the BBQ pork, the soups and the summer rolls are going to be regulars for me, but that aside I'm always up for something new.

I reckon I'm going to try and make a trip to Bubbles this week or next to see how it compares. I'm also hearing the new place on Shudehill is going to be a Korean place rather than Vietnamese. We shall see, but as I also love Korean food and it's only a minutes walk from my office I can't lose either way! Happy, happy days.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Thom,

I would be pleased as punch if this was around the corner from my office. Value for money is terrific especially given the portion sizes.

You may well beat me to Bubbles especially as its on your patch.

What about one main course at Bubbles and pop next door to Red Chilli for the Lamb Hot Pot?

Just a thought :biggrin:

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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They were fine John. I think the coke(cola) that I was drinking dulled the taste a bit though.

Bought a pack of Laver (seaweed) soup stock and other bits from Wing Yip. Only 49p for six sachets of base stock.

Made a fantastic soup with one sachet, fish sauce, slivers of galangal, handful of prawns, same amount of boiled rice. Very finely sliced some fine beans, added boiling water, microwaved for a minute and a half (before adding the prawns as they were cooked) Ample amount of coriander and Thai holy basil on top with sprinkling of red chilli. Would have added spring onion but did not have any, still next time.

So,So,Simple and tasted as good as I've eaten anywhere.

Wish I had taken a photo of it now.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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I'm not quite convinced that the subtle flavours of Vietnam are for me, enjoyable though it was it was no better than I can produce at home.

I am far from being an expert on Vietnamese food, but I think my general reaction has been along these lines. Summer rolls and Pho are good but rarely excited me. I vaguely remember eating well in Hanoi but don't recall a lot of detail (it was hot so beer was drunk). However, on Friday I went to a modern Vietnamese (sorry not in the UK) restaurant i.e. the kids of the first wave of immigrants who are now opening restaurants rather than cafes much like the second generation on Indian and Thai restaurants.

They had some really spicy curry's and lively salads (not dissimilar to Thai) with not a Pho in sight. The food was very good and quite different from a lot of Vietnamese food I have eaten.

It has led me to wonder whether the first generation of places we see are more cafes (or Pho outlets) that serve "daytime" snack or lunch food rather than truly representative of the broad range of Vietnamese food. Maybe a bit like judging British food from eating English breakfast in a bar surrounded by "expats" in Marbella.

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Ohhh, good pics, got me hungry already and it's only 10am.

I was in there again yesterday actually, with a mate who is a bit of a Vietnamese food fan (he named some area of London where there are about ten Vietnamese restaurants in a row, most of which he frequented).

We had the quail which was spot on - crispy skin, tender flesh, good spicing - summer rolls and pork (as previously described) and he had the chicken pho which looked bang on too. The extra chilli sauce caught him out which was fun.

He rated it, especially the value (though we got three halves of quail, did someone mention four upthread?) but I think the point above about whether we're seeing "true" Vietnamese food yet is an interesting one (arguably we're rarely seeing "true" Indian or Pakistani food even in the UK even now after 50-100 years of such restaurants).

I do think it's fairly authentic though as most of the people I've seen in their are Vietnamese, and I stress just seeing people of the same ethnic group as the restaurant isn't an indicator of quality - see Americans/McDonalds - but it probably does mean the food is true to the culture (for better or worse!).

It's just simple home cooking I suspect(the guy waiting on said his wife does the cooking) and sometimes that's all you're looking for. I'd certainly be interesting to try any more challenging or extreme examples of Vietnamese cuisine though.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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  • 1 year later...

There’s a fair few east asian businesses that have grown up around the Wing Yip supermarket on Oldham Road. The Vnam Cafe is one and it does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a caff and it’s Vietnamese. It’s not a cuisine I have experience in but, as far as I can tell, it’s making a stab at doing a good job.

Summer rolls were soft and unctuous. Spring rolls were crisp and delicious. Both were helped along by a dipping sauce of very pokey red chilli, fish sauce and a sprinkling of peanuts. But the third of the starters was, perhaps, the star - six mini rice cakes, served hot and topped with a prawn and a little chilli and mint.

Pork featured on all three main course plates. Two of us went with the BBQ belly pork with noodles and the other for the version with fillet and rice. All three were fine, bearing in mind we’re talking caff food here, although the meat was a little dry. Nice topping of crushed peanuts on the meat. Everything nicely arranged on the plate with a little herb salad alongside the meat and carb. A slightly different fish sauce based, erm, sauce was served in a little bowl – pouring it over the plate seemed a better idea than keeping it as a dipping sauce.

It’s certainly a place I’d pop into for lunch if I was about to shop at the Wing Yip, but I’m not sure I’d cross the city centre for it. About a tenner a head for the two courses and a drink.

John Hartley

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