The Best Bánh Mì In London
The Vietnamese sandwich is a crowdpleaser. Here are London’s best.
Literally translated, bánh mì means bread in Vietnamese. Although more often than not it’s referring to a crispy and crumb-heavy baguette filled with all kinds of delights, from slices of chả lụa (sausage), to spreads of rich pâté, to deep-fried vegetable spring rolls, to slices of giò thủ (glorious, anaemic-looking head cheese). From Dalston to Deptford, London has no shortage of great Vietnamese restaurants, and these are the ones you should be picking up your next bánh mì from.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Banh Mi Aha!
The menu at Banh Mi Aha! on Lamb’s Conduit Street spans phở, bún bowls, and things on rice like pork chop with gravy, but your first port of call should always be bread. The Special bánh mì is loaded as it should be (crispy pork belly, head cheese, ham, sausage, and a spread of chicken liver pâté) but it’s the other touches—a deeply savoury duck gravy that has a hint of Maggi about it and the splashes of aromatic five spice butter—that take it to another level. There’s plenty of crunch too: from the faultless baguette to the enlivening vegetables and herbs inside.
Bread-watch: A real chunker that belies its crispy exterior to be as light as feather on first, second, and every bite. Dangerously, one may well not touch the sides.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
An's Oriental Supermarket
It’s impossible to leave this shop in Upper Holloway unhappy or empty-handed, especially if you know about their grab-and-go menu featuring homemade bánh mì. We recommend ordering as soon as you step into the shop, spending said time perusing what snacks to take with you and, before you know it, you’ll have a crispy warm baguette in your hand. There’s five-spice sausage, terrine, homemade pâté, coriander, pickles, and sauce in the original, and it’s completely and utterly delicious.
Bread-watch: Warm, soft, and so crispy you’ll find crumbs in your socks the next day.
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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
After a successful pop-up in late 2021, Viet Populaire has a home in Arcade Food Hall. Their special bánh mì is a magnificent and wholly epic creation that requires true bravery when wearing a white shirt. Once you’ve successfully taken a bite, you’ll need a hot second to process all of the flavours. The soft sweetness of the fresh bread, the slap of coriander and chillies, the smokiness of that red roast pork, all brought together with the fragrant taste and jelly-ish texture of the headcheese.
Bread-watch: A definite crunch with some dagger-like crumbs. It is, and we very much mean this as a compliment, like the best kind of corner shop baguette.
For £8, Hai Café makes one of London’s finest bánh mìs. This little arm’s length-wide spot in Lower Clapton heftily fills its short baguettes with a combination of spiced pork belly and lemongrass chicken, an intriguing—and wholly delicious—crushed black sesame seed spread plus pickled bits, green chilli, a slice of head cheese, and, of course, crispy shallots. The pork belly in its classic sandwich (though there is a tofu and mushroom option) is bolshy: caramelised chunks that will undoubtedly fall onto your lap before being transferred deftly into your mouth.
Bread-watch: A little soft but with a strong chew to crunch ratio, any javelin baguette that requires unsheathing is a very good javelin baguette.
A friend of ours went to this Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road and ventured that their bánh mì was “so-so” a while ago, which just goes to show—trust no one. Ant House’s classic bánh mì is much better than that. For starters, the bread is the real deal. Not a crusty baguette nor a lesser replacement. It’s a soft and springy torpedo filled with not one, not two, not three, not four, but five varieties of pork (char siu, mortadella sausage, pork belly, ham hock, and pork floss) as well as pâté and a handful of coriander. It is, without doubt, an excellent addition to your friendship group.
Bread-watch: A golden and malleable sub that favours softness over a sprinkling of crumbs.
Banh Mi Town
If textures are what you’re after in your sandwiches, then Banh Mi Town has got you covered. This tiny spot in Fitzrovia has what we like to refer to as ‘the peanut button’. Press the peanut button and your pork special, filled with pâté, cả lụa, caramelised belly, and ham, will also get a sprinkling of peanuts on top of its pickled vegetables and chilli coriander. It’s kind of funky, we very much like it, and this is a really useful and cost-effective place to know about in central.
Bread-watch: Just look at that picture. Look at it. What does it say to you? Two hands is what it says. Two hands on this soft (but not uncrisp) and wide (but not unmanageable) baguette baby.
The Hackney Central favourite can be a cruel and frustrating mistress. Lose track of time and it’s more than likely closed—opening times are something like midday to 3pm, Monday to Friday—or worse, they’ve run out of baguettes. But that’s part of this place’s whole thing. The Hoi-An Special is the one to get, with char siu, belly, and Vietnamese caramel hunks, pâté, omelette, pickled carrots and cucumber, coriander, and some sriracha for good measure. It’s a go-to for us.
Bread-watch: Quite doughy, a little crispy, and 100% certain to happily take up space in your stomach. Your ‘quick lie down’ afterwards is also a 100% inevitability.
Viet Anh Pho
There’s no lack of brilliant Vietnamese options around Deptford and Greenwich, but it’s Viet Anh Pho’s bánh mìs that are the ones worth seeking out. The Special, which combines lemongrass-heavy pork wrapped in betel leaves, grilled pork slices, pâté, and batons of pickled vegetables, is up there with the best fillings around. What it lacks in size—this is a relatively small forearm of a sandwich compared to say, an oil tanker truck-sized thing—it makes up for in porky flavour.
Bread-watch: Crisp to the point of almost (but not quite) stale, prepare to make it rain (crumbs) all over yourself.
Kêu Banh Mi Deli
With locations in Shoreditch, The City, and Soho, Kêu is probably London’s most recognisable bánh mì mini-chain. Don’t let that make you think that its standards are iffy though. In actual fact, Kêu isn’t just reliable but consistently delicious. Their Hoi An Deluxe combines ham, roast pork belly, sliced head cheese, chicken liver pâté, and a gravy-ish sauce that’s heavy on pork and sweet onion flavour. Oh, and pork floss too. Because crisp and meaty candy floss should very much be a more regular sandwich inclusion.
Bread-watch: Another piece of bread you could go to war with, only, this time, it would likely be in water. Bronzed, crunchy, and very submarine-like. We salute you, always-lovely sandwich.