Thursday, 28 May 2009

Cafe East - A Vietnamese Feast

There has been much talk between Helen and I about Vietnamese food. I've seen many posts about the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road, and neither of us had visited a single one of them. I crave the freshness of summer rolls, the comforting Pho noodle soups. I've visited Pho, a chain of Vietnamese restauarants before, and I found that while convenient, they lacked a certain punch and were rather insipid.

While chatting about it on Twitter, Cafe East was recommended. Even better; it's situated close to home, in Surrey Quays. A simple journey (although not so simple for some!) brought us right on it's doorstep.

Upon arrival, it looked closed. The blue neon sign shone brightly, but the doors were locked. We paced around it maddeningly, until we discovered a large entrance and a patio round the back.

We were greeted warmly to a large and simple dining area, packed with Oriental diners. A good sign. Laminate menus with photos consisted of two pages. I knew what we had to have; summer rolls. We also chose banh cuon, which was like the Chinese dim sum dish, cheung fun - rice noodle pastry except stuffed with minced meat, topped with shallots and bean sprouts, served with nuoc cham, a fish sauce, garlic, chilli and lime juice sauce. This was my favourite dish. The rice noodle pastry was light and warm, topped with slices of mystery-meat ham and those lovely fried shallots. It was light yet comforting with just the right balance of spicy tang from the nuoc cham.

Summer rolls were tightly packed full of goodies. Shredded lettuce and vermicelli noodles provided a great crunch, with a few mint leaves strewn in there for freshness. The prawns were sweet and juicy, and the accompanying spicy peanut dipping sauce providing a messy yet welcome dip.

Of course, you can't go to a Vietnamese restaurant without trying out some sort of noodle soup. I was immediately drawn to the Bun Bo Hue, the noodle soup with prawns, chicken and beef. We were asked if we wanted the beef rare or well done (rare, of course) and spicy or not. We went for full-on spice.

This came with a plate of chopped chillis, halved lemons, beansprouts and herbs which we added as we saw fit (i.e. we chucked it all in). You can't tell from the picture, but te beef was indeed perfectly rare. We slurped this down greedily, enthusiastically enough to splatter our clothing with it. It was a generous portion.

All this was washed down with an eye-wateringly strong Vietnamese iced coffee which will keep me up till the early hours. Service was sweet and efficient, and even after we finished I couldn't help gazing at other peoples' dishes. I can't wait to return, and given that I live 15 mins away by bus, it shan't be long before I do. £30 for 2 starters, 2 mains and 2 drinks. Can't argue with that, can we?

Cafe East

100 Redriff Road

London, SE16 7LH

Tel: 020 8691 7777

17 comments:

A Girl Has to Eat said...

Sounds good. Good vietnamese restaurants are hard to come by in London.

Charmaine said...

That was quick Lizzie! Café East is such a gem of a place. I swear they do the biggest summer rolls of anywhere. Will have to move back to soufeazlundun now...

Also, the new place is a vast improvement from the old location. It used to be pretty greasy-spoon-esque! But it's been transformed into a nicer looking café called Mama Pho (run by the same family). Then there's the other new place, Banzi on Lower Road. It would seem that Deptford/Surrey Quays is the new Kingsland Road...

Lil said...

Lovely! I love Vietnamese food and was lucky enough to visit Vietnam last summer. It was fantastic, and I was lucky enough to eat Bun Bo Hue in Hue itself!
Think I may have to try this restaurant out.

Helen said...

No we certainly cannot argue with it, although we nearly had to do the washing up....

NoirKang said...

Looks like a great spread of food :) I've only been to song que but there are so many great viet places to try out, will have to include this on my list too :D

Have a great weekend Lizzie.

An American in London said...

Perfect - I've been craving Vietnamese food all week and am planning to get some tonight, so Cafe East sounds like a good option.

Kavey said...

Sounds good!
I've enjoyed Vietnamese food in Kingsland Road once, and it was indeed good, though I can't for the life of me remember the name. Formica tables and quick, efficient service - probably not enough to identify it from the others on the road!

pigpigscorner said...

I've been craving for vietnamese food! This place looks really good! I'll keep that in mind =)

gastrogeek said...

wow this place looks great! Am so bored of Kingsland Road...

Gourmet Chick said...

The summer rolls look to die for. Lovely to meet you at Belgos!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I think you and Helen are out to torment us! Both your sets of photos are incredibly enticing...

Gastro1 said...

Looks like a real find must check it out.

fiftyfourfoodmiles said...

Enjoyed your post - those summer rolls do look delish. If you're ever on the Kingsland road then Song Que is by far (in my opinion) the best restaurant on there. The soft shell crab is TDF and the Phos are really fragrant. Cheap too - and there's a man who lives downstairs. Wrote about it on my old blog - http://pleasure-eater.blogspot.com/2008/06/song-que.html if you want to read about it. Rosie x

Jonny said...

I went tonight & really enjoyed it - got there at about 630pm, luckily I remembered how you had described the entrance because we also initially thought it was closed :) By the time we left (about 8pm) it was packed and there was a queue.

I thought the food was great, service was swift & it was good value - I will be back too!

mycookinghut said...

I am glad that I found your blog!! Will browse through!! :) By the way, I live in SE too :) So, this could be a good place to have Vietnamese food fix.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this nice post 111213

Huong said...

I loved Cafe East, until Le Gia on Deptford Broadway opened up!