In Canada Water, London, there is car park which acts predominately for a randomly placed movie theatre, and next to the theatre is a Pizza Hut. Way across the other side of the large concreted area is a gated brick building. This is Cafe East, the best Vietnamese in London. And if you manage to find it, you are in for a treat!
Whether you have had the chance to experience real, fresh Vietnamese itself in Vietnam, you love good, fresh Asian food, or a a first timer, this is the place to go. Just beyond the gates is a alfresco garden, used mainly for the tens of people which are always present, holding numbered tickets, waiting to be seated. Don’t let this put you off, I have never had to wait for more then 10 minutes for a table. Inside it is chock-a-block full of Vietnamese families and groups, and they are loud, but that just adds to the atmosphere, right?
First of all, they only take cash. A huge inconvenience in today’s society I know. Why would anyone not bother excepting card is lost on me, but it doesn’t seem to affect their business one bit. Secondly, they don’t serve tap water. Again, annoying, but in this case it doesn’t matter. Their traditional Vietnamese drinks are that amazing you don’t mind paying for several of them.
So once your seated (if you are a group of two and it is particularly busy you may be asked if it’s okay to share a table with another couple) you are given your menus and left to decide. I am not one to order the same thing when I go out, in fact I never do it…except here. As I usually eat there with my friend Karl, this is our standard order:
2 Vietnamese Iced Coffees (To start with. By the time the bills arrives to count is usually at six.)
1 Spicy Rare Pho Pho Tai (For myself)
1 Welldone Pho Pho Chin (For Karl)
1 Serve of Spring Rolls
1 Serve of Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls
So if you like spring rolls, (which who doesn’t?) then obviously get them. I’m not a huge deep fried food person, and after a trip to South East Asia (where they aren’t to big on the idea of actually letting the oil drain before serving) over a year ago when I ate so many spring rolls I put myself off them, this was the first time since that trip which I have had one; and they didn’t disappoint. They were great! Fresh spring rolls however, I could eat every day! I’m very judgemental on fresh spring rolls. When in Hoi An I took part in a cooking class and made the most amazing fresh spring rolls I have ever tasted in my entire life. I also received the recipe from the Vietnamese chef (I may need to make these soon!) So let’s just say that anything else has a tough competition to beat…but these come pretty damn close. A lot of places can do fresh spring rolls so, so wrong, so it is really nice when you can get some and it feels like you are back on a beach in Na Trang, eating them freshly made and enjoying everything there is about your life in that particular moment.
Then there is the pho! (Pronounced fur. Trust me) Easily one of my favourite foods in the entire world! When ordered you receive your soup base, which contains beef, vermicelli noodles and a few shallots for garnish. On the side they present a plate over-flowing with bean sprouts, mint, lemon, lettuce and chilli. All of which you add to the soup at your own desire! I get the spicy soup, though it is proper Asian style spicy. The chilli isn’t over powering where you can’t taste anything and your mouth is on fire. No, there is a heat and you can still taste every other flavour in the bowl, you just get a bit flustered and start to sweat (I love that feeling). Though if your not use to Asian types of spicy but still want some heat, I recommend just getting the plain based pho and adding the freshly chopped chilli to your liking. Once you try a proper pho you will understand why I love it so much. It’s light and fresh, absolutely packed full of flavour, yet really expectantly filling.
This is also the place where you can get an amazing standard of coffee! Their Vietnamese Ice Coffee is the best, and strongest I have been able to find so far while here! Even if your not a coffee drinker, you need to try this!
So there you go! My favourite place for Vietnamese in London. Although, yes, the food is amazing, I think I also love going their because being in an environment like that brings back a lot of memories of an amazing country. I think anyone who has ever been to Vietnam knows what I’m talking about.
- A ‘Totally Sweet’ Vietnamese Ice Coffee (travelandspice.wordpress.com)