How do you feel about Vietnamese food? This is a make or break question because I love it. If you don't like it maybe you should leave...this post.
Having moved round the country a fair bit, my first taste was in London in my old stomping ground Finchley, known for it being Margaret Thatcher's constituency, almost three years ago. Then it was fresh, clean and herby, completely different to any other Asian food I've had before. Today Vietnamese food is currently the big food trend of 2015; we've had sushi, we've had Korean food, we've had bao, now it's Vietnam's time. And its exploded across the capital.
One of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants in London is Cây Tre. I'm not one to usually jump on chain restaurants, and although you could probably try and class it as an independent it's still part of a wider group of Vietnamese establishments. The reason why it's one of my favourites is because it's home-style Vietnamese cooking at it's best. It might be elegantly presented but you can't get away from the ginormous portions. Pho is always an ambitious dish to tackle but here it's piles of noodles, mountains of meat (if you're that way inclined) and an accompanying meadow of herbs and bean sprouts; not skimping on the herbs puts Cây Tre ahead in the pho department.
I'm hoping that Vietnam fever spreads out across the country, when we moved out of Finchley, I was heart broken to find out there was no local Vietnamese restaurant. No Friday night pho to take away was tough but it's made me set myself a challenge to find the best pho around London. If you haven't tried Vietnamese food then I have three questions to help you decide if you should:
1) Do you want to eat healthy food?
2) Do you want to eat delicious food?
3) Do you like beer?
If you can answer yes to any of those questions then I think you should at least join me in trying to find the best Vietnamese food around and start campaigning locally to get more Vietnamese food in your area. Write to your local MP, hold a protest, go on hunger strike (that's how extreme my love is for Vietnamese food is) and we will see Vietnamese take out in our local high streets soon.
Anyway back to Cây Tre, my friend Janet (you might remember her from our éclair fail at Maitre Choux in this post or the time we went for afternoon tea at Bea's, doesn't she look pretty!) and I hit up the Leicester Square branch one day after we caught an excellent (if slightly morbid) session on the Brontë sisters at the National Portrait Gallery. Spoiler: there were more than 3 sisters. Just showing you my cultured side, bit of Art History, bit of Vietnamese food, I'm a show off at heart.
Cây Tre is pretty tucked away on Dean Street in Soho, or as I like to call it the centre of my current foodiverse. So many good places I've found recently are hidden round the side streets of Soho such as The Coach & Horses. Just dropping the Coach & Horses in here in case you're veggie or vegan, if you are you might want to look away from this post now and go check out that awesome first vegetarian pub in London (with vegan options!) instead.
Cây Tre looks small from the outside but inside there's a long line of tables that extends all the way to the back of the restaurant and actually it's one of the only places that we found would take a booking for 7 of us a couple of weeks ago. The decor is monochromatic and minimal in white and pewter with hints of gold to liven things up, it's basically how I want my home to look. Like the décor, service is pretty slick too. Janet and I ordered from the lunch menu because, one, we went for lunch and, two, it was a main and a starter for £10. Prepare to be well fed.
The second reason why I keep going back to Cây Tre, the first being their pho, is because of their Anchovied Chicken Wings. For all fish haters out there, these don't taste of fish. They're salty, sweet and with a caramel like glaze that makes me go crazy, in a good way. Janet and I split our starters and we both favoured the wings, fighting over who would get to mop up the sauce with the salad. A sauce has to be really good for us to fight over salad. We also got the Cha La Lot, delicately spiced pork and peanut dumplings wrapped in leaves served with some rice noodles and a fresh dipping sauce. These dumplings are good but I'd go for something else next time, something like their amazing Chilli Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab or just more Anchovied Chicken Wings. You can never have enough wings.
For mains we're both pho queens so it had to be a big bowl of steaming Pho. I normally go for the Hanoi Pho because I'm a garlic fiend, and this has whole roasted cloves of it and fried steak. But we went for the Classic Pho because it was on the lunch menu and guys it was lunch for £10! I'm reiterating this fact because it's such great value. So one huge bowl of Pho with every cut of beef under the sun later, Janet and I were fit to burst. I couldn't finish all of my broth, partly because I'd eaten so much and partly because I went a little heavy handed on the Sriracha; my go to condiment of choice. My brother has been raving about it on cheese on toast for years and I recently tried it and it was a revelation. Never again will Lea and Perrins grace my cheesy toast...Marmite still will though. Oh my God what if we combined Marmite and Sriracha on cheese on toast?! I'm doing this asap.
In summary, Cây Tre is great. Go for the Anchovied Chicken Wings, stay to finish the never-ending Pho and grab some Vietnamese beer for giggles.
If anyone has any Vietnamese restaurant recommendations drop me a comment below. Likewise let me know if you think I'm crazy to mix Marmite, Sriracha and cheese on toast, or let me know if you have. In fact don't bother telling me I'm crazy, we all know it's true, just tell me about the cheesy toast!