Back in the day, Kingsland Road, also known as phở mile, was the place to go when you craved Vietnamese food in London. The long stretch was the go-to for summer rolls and BYOB good times. But these days you can find superb Vietnamese restaurants all over the city. From an array of bánh mì options, to fragrant broth specialists, to family-run curry joints, Vietnamese food has become a cornerstone cuisine in London and these restaurants are the best of the lot.
Sông Quê is the elder of Kingsland Road’s many Vietnamese options. The luminous green corner spot has been a personal refuge for us and for many on numerous occasions, as well as the setting for countless rowdy group meals memorialised by nước chấm sauce stains on the tablecloth and everyone’s t-shirts. Quality does waver, especially on busier nights, but stick with the phở (rare steak, tripe, or tendon options), bánh xèo, and bún vermicelli salads and you can’t go wrong.
Eat Vietnam Bar-B-Grill
Dalston and Deptford both have a big Vietnamese demographic. While the concentration of Vietnamese restaurants in Deptford is less overwhelming, with reduced quantity comes higher quality. Eat Vietnam Bar B Grill is the restaurant to go to for an unapologetically slap-up Vietnamese meal around SE8. Maybe even in London full stop. The menu is vast but the quality is consistent. Cánh gà (chicken wings) have a tangy house glaze that’s equal parts aromatic as it is rootin’ and tootin’. Summer rolls are unlike any sad interpretations you’ve had before, while any meat off the bar-b-grill section of the menu is likely worth a spot on your table. Book ahead and bring numbers.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
The arm’s-length-wide spot in Lower Clapton is a little family affair that’s quietly making some of east London’s best Vietnamese food. Its bánh mì are delicious submarine-sized six-inch wonders—short and crunchy baguettes filled with spiced pork belly or lemongrass chicken along with head cheese, pickles, and a black sesame seed spread. The warming yellow curries (full of soothing carrots and pumpkin, and paired with tofu, vegetables, chicken, or king prawns) are among the most flavourful Vietnamese curries we’ve had in London. Heads up, it’s walk-in only.
The majority of London’s destination Vietnamese restaurants operate outside of central London, so you might be a little surprised to know that Hoa Sen in Covent Garden is up there with the best. Its signature vịt quay Lạng Sơn (roasted duck served in lettuce leaves with mango and salad) is a juicy and reluctantly shareable delight, while lobster and stir-fried ginger with noodles is a must if you’re feeling extravagant. That said, this is a restaurant in central that suits a single bowl of Saigon hawker rice as it does a whole crab hot pot for the table.
Kêu Banh Mi Deli
Kêu is something of a mini-chain of Vietnamese delis with locations in Soho, Shoreditch, and the City. If you’re thinking that this makes it a functional working lunch spot for bánh mì, meat with rice, and noodles dishes… then you’d be correct. But Kêu isn’t just reliable, it’s consistently delicious. The deluxe bánh mì is a go-to that combines four types of meat with a gravy-ish sauce; the roasted meats with rice is just as good (and better value) than much of Chinatown; and cup of wonton soup is something everyone should get into the habit of ordering.
BúnBúnBún Vietnamese Food
With two restaurants that bookend Kingsland Road, there’s no doubt that BúnBúnBún is phở mile’s no-brainer option whether you’re near Hoxton or Dalston. Their bún vermicelli noodle salads are an obvious choice and bún chả Hà Nội (pork sausage patties, grilled strips of lemongrass pork, and a crunchy, splintering spring roll) is a bowl of food we’ll never not wolf down. But that’s not all they do. Whole fried sea bass in ginger chilli dressing is tender and crispy, while their grilled meats, from beef to goat, are given the attention they deserve.
Spooning something as delicious as Viet Café’s viscous and fragrant beef stew into your gob proves that there is one true leader in the cutlery stakes. The pointy one and the stabby one simply can’t compete. The Vietnamese cafe is a popular Camberwell lunchtime destination: curries with rice, bánh mì, and bún vermicelli noodle salads are all made fresh and packed full of flavour. Strips of pork sizzle on hot plates and piping hot spring rolls come shining out the fryer. One thing especially worth noting is the phở—it’s made with a broth so carefully tended to that you can only order bowls on the weekend.
Viet Anh Pho
Given the sheer number of Vietnamese restaurants in London, genuine all-rounders are hard to come by. Where crystal clear phở broth sings in one spot, its summer rolls say otherwise. Viet Anh Pho is the opposite to that. The spot between Deptford and Greenwich is admirably solid. Its bánh mìs are worth seeking out, combining lemongrass-heavy pork wrapped in betel leaves, grilled pork slices, pâté, and pickles. Its noodle soups and phở, be them spiced or salty or fragrant, are more than satisfying. And then the space is well-sized and airy, as good for swinging by on your own or coming en masse.