Have a Bowl of Pho and go Make all Your Dreams come True

Fresh ingredients mean delicious and authentic Vietnamese food at Mien Tay. A warm welcome means a loyal clientele and a popular eatery

Review by Andy Barnham

Vietnamese food is unashamedly my go to comfort food. Growing up, when it was snowing outside or I was under the weather with a cold, my mother would make a steaming hot bowl of beef pho with vermicelli noodles in broth. It was, still is, the perfect pick me up dish when there was a chill outside or I just needed cheering up. You can keep your pork casserole, your shepherd’s and cottage pies topped with mashed potato, your apple and rhubarb crumble with custard; nothing beats a bowl of pho, pho’ sure.

Mien Tay is a family run chain of four Vietnamese restaurants, each one managed by a different family member, and in keeping with two house rules; fresh ingredients and a warm welcome. Walking into the Battersea location, a stone’s throw from Clapham Junction on Lavender Hill, it’s clear these two tenets are being adhered to from the smell of food wafting from the kitchen and the greeting afforded all, not merely return clientele. Which brings me to my next point; at 7pm on a winter Monday night, Mien Tay was over half full. When other nearby eateries were empty, Mien Tay was buzzing nicely with European, Antipodean and Far Eastern languages all in the mix; and in my book, when you’ve got regular repeat customers and customers from the country of origin, you’re onto a winner.

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So what do you get? The tables at Mien Tay are cosy, so be prepared to rub elbows with your neighbour. This works a treat if you adhere to the idea that eating is a social activity and sharing dishes, which I whole heartedly do. And the chop sticks, Hooray! They’re not disposable thin fingers that are joined at the hip and demand being snapped apart; they’re decent, robust wooden instruments that allow you to properly grasp your food. And you’ll find they’re a must when dealing with the delicious, fat fresh rolls and spring rolls. Indeed, it’s easy to go crazy when looking at the menu, spring rolls, crispy pancakes, salt, pepper and garlic tofu, sate, minced beef in wild betel leaves, seafood, salad, soup… and these are just some of the starters. The service is quick and the portions are generous, so be aware! Three starters or a starter and main per person are adequate, any more (which is very tempting to do) and you’ll be rolling out the door and down the hill. The spring rolls are crispy and not at all oily, the fresh rolls are bursting with authentic flavour while the betel leaf beef is spot on.

Which brings me to my pho with rare sliced beef; not only is the bowl brimming full of broth which includes the tasty beef, noodles and other ingredients, you’re also offered a side dish of extra bean sprouts, chilli, lime, fresh coriander and mint… all of which were swiftly added and combined with my pho. Heaven. And it couldn’t be further from the offering from the chain named after the dish.

Should you now lust after a slice, or roll, of Vietnamese food, avoid the westernised chain and make your way to something far, far more authentic. However, be aware Battersea, at a minimum, is cash only and no cards; there’s a cashpoint just down the road at the post office if you’re caught short. And if you’re looking to walk in at last minute and haven’t booked, go early during your evening to avoid disappointment.  riddle_stop 2

 

Enquiries: Mien Tay, 180 Lavender Hill, Battersea SW11 5TQ / 0207 3500721 / other branches in Shoreditch, Fulham and Wood Green / http://mientay.co.uk/

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