There are some things in London that you hope will never change.
Our buses should never be anything other than pillarbox red. We’d prefer Soho to remain a bit dingy and to keep its edge - not become a theme park for tourists and branches of Leon. And we definitely want future generations to appreciate the fact that sitting at the front of the DLR is the greatest experience you can have inside the M25.
To that short but important list, we’ll add the Vietnamese restaurant Sông Quê Cafe. It’s the best spot on the Kingsland Road’s ‘pho mile’, a few hundred metres of road in Shoreditch jammed door-to-door with Vietnamese cafes, supermarkets, and restaurants. That’s enough to automatically make it one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in London. But it’s also more than that, because it serves some of the best Vietnamese food we’ve eaten outside of Vietnam.
If you’re part of the 90% that comes here to eat pho, know that it’ll be comforting, satisfying, and incredibly good. The noodles are always perfectly firm, and the bright, herby broth is super flavourful, whether you go for the beef, chicken, or tofu version. The starters are excellent too, and you should definitely extend your order to include the deep-fried squid, soft-shell crab, cha la lot (minced pork wrapped in betel leaf) and grilled quail.
It’s also worth noting that while the quality at Song Que is stellar, the consistency is pretty damn impressive too. We’ve been coming here for almost 15 years, and each meal has been as good, if not better, than the last. After eating a mediocre meal at a new spot, we often find ourselves wondering why we didn’t just come here instead.
Sông Quê works for any situation. Lunchtime is perfect for grabbing a bowl of pho, but the restaurant is also great for a big knees-ups at the weekend. Your parents will love it, your flatmate who only eats beans on toast will enjoy it, and if you bring a date here and they don’t like the pho, you might want to consider breaking up with them. Even if Soho turns into Disneyland and they get humans to start driving the DLR, we’ll keep coming to Sông Quê.
You can grab a beer later but really, you want to start off with one of these. Condensed milk makes everything better, and it’s the only way to drink coffee here. The hot version is great too.
A totally safe option, and one that’ll ease you into a meal here. The chillies add a hit of heat, but not too much.
There’s really nothing to bond a group together like picking a deep-fried crustacean apart. Eat it quickly - it’s worth getting burned for.
Whatever they marinate this in is incredible. Get it to share, and don’t be shy about using your fingers to eat it.
If you’ve never had these herby little parcels of minced pork before, you need to get on it. You can wrap it up with the lettuce and pickles, or just eat it by itself.
The banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe pancake) is very good here. You can get it with chicken, tofu, and prawns, and as well as being delicious, it’s great for kidding yourself you’re being healthy, as it’s packed full of bean sprouts and spring onions. The tofu version is great for non-meat eaters.
Still the best bowl we’ve had outside of Vietnam itself. It’s hot and comforting, and good from the first sip to the last. Whether you go for beef or chicken is your call (they’re both great), and if you’re into off-cuts, the tripe and tendon versions in the former are excellent.
If you’re like us, you’ll find it challenging not to come here and order some kind of noodle soup. But if you fancy a change, the spring roll and grilled pork noodles (bun thit nuong cha gio) are excellent, and perfect for when it’s hot outside.