London isn’t exactly lacking in Vietnamese restaurants and while Dalston’s phở mile is often talked about, in Deptford there’s a reduced quantity that bring a much higher quality. Eat Vietnam Bar-B-Grill is the go-to. This bustling low-key restaurant makes everything from bánh xèo to phở that is a cut above pretty much any other Vietnamese restaurant in the city.
Nothing about this place is particularly flash or brash. It’s on a noisy stretch with a guy named Papa John for a neighbour. But on the weekend friends and families line up outside for a wooden table and an opportunity to attack Eat Vietnam’s lengthy menu. Given its neighbourhood location, midweek lunches are fairly relaxed affairs, but from Thursday onwards you’ll want to book for dinner because this is a restaurant that SE8 locals, and those from further afield, know and love. Birthdays are celebrated with baby back ribs painted in Eat Vietnam’s house sauce—a finger-licking creation that’s equal parts aromatic as it is rootin’ and tootin’. And Friday night catch-ups over crisp beers and crunchy pancakes are regular occurrences.
While Eat Vietnam’s menu is vast, the quality is consistent. The Bar-B-Grill in their name refers to the caramelised bits of the menu—like lemongrass-marinated quail or grilled pork skewers with peanut dip—and you’ll more than likely smell these bits before you see them. Most notable on the walls, aside from the colourful lanterns and moonlit illustrations of Vietnam, are the vegan options. They aren’t cursory inclusions. Instead, like everything here, they’re careful ones. Eat Vietnam Bar-B-Grill is a restaurant that knows to put quality first, because the crowds will follow.
Most summer rolls in London are 98.5% vermicelli with a sprig of coriander and an orphaned, semi-defrosted prawn floating in noodle purgatory. Not these guys. Lettuce is elegantly curled around slices of pork; chives and herbs poke out dramatically; strands of pickled carrot hug noodles; and juicy prawns are begging to be dipped into fragrant, fruity, peanut-laced dipping sauce. Every filling in this roll feels purposefully placed, and it tastes that way too.
The coconut batter of these canapé-sized pancakes is both sweet and savoury. Inside each soft and spongy mouthful is a chunk of tiger prawn. They’re worth sharing but a little too sugary to enjoy solo.
While lots of the menu is bolshy in its flavours, these slippery rice rolls are a little more delicate. They’re filled with earthy wood ear mushrooms and flecks of pork, with a handful of crisp deep-fried shallots on top and slices of Vietnamese sausage on the side for good measure. It’s a great dish to fight over at the start of your meal.
Nem Nướng Nha Trang
This kebab-like, charcoal-grilled pork skewer comes with vermicelli noodles, a bouquet of herbs, and a completely lickable peanut dip. The minced pork—moulded on to a stick before being grilled to juicy result—is reminiscent of a kofta, but comes with fizzingly fresh mint, coriander, and lettuce leaves so you can make your own meaty, crunchy, peanutty parcels.
Bánh Xèo Tôm Thįt
We can confidently say that Eat Vietnam’s version of the stuffed, deep-fried pancake is the best we’ve had in London. Aside from an ASMR crunchy leaf playlist, there are few things more shattering than this crisp batter. It’s slightly sweet from coconut and generously filled with piping hot slices of pork, fat prawns, bean sprouts, and herbs. The dipping sauce—part fish sauce, part chilli, wholly delicious—is excellent.
Sườn Heo Nướng
Eat Vietnam’s house sauce is a sensation—there’s no other way to put it. You’ll find it glazed on its chicken wings and also on this plate of irresistible baby back ribs. Fragrant and fruity, but equal parts smoky and spicy. Close your eyes and you might just find yourself yee-hawing. The ribs are tender with just the right amount of char off the grill and, with a pile of rice on the side, it’s impossible not to enjoy.