Vietnamese Lunch Date: Union Viet Restaurant.

Still on a Vietnamese cuisine high and realising that it’s frankly one of the best cuisines for healthy eaters, I came across this hidden gem in Southwark, central London.

It purported to be a cheap eat run by a friendly Vietnamese family who believed in quality and authentic flavour. It had great reviews so I had to pay them a visit.

The Restaurant.

The restaurant is just a short walk away from Southwark station on one of the quieter streets: Union Street.

Decorated with hues of blue and tons of character, the establishment has a cool street food feel.

We first found our table upstairs and popped back downstairs to have a look at the menu. We were also told how lucky we were to get a table with ease because they are usually very busy.

The Menu

There was so much choice. I tend to dislike menus that have too much choice because I’m honestly just glutinous and then get frustrated that I won’t be able to try everything. I mean, how will I ever know what the best dish is?! I’m sure not many other people share this problem though.

I opted for the ultimate pho which had sliced beef cooked to medium, chicken breast and king prawns. I also ordered their vegetable spring rolls with sweet chilli and a Vietnamese Iced coffee. My guest chose the chicken curry with rice and pork spring rolls with a mango smoothie.

We noticed they also had a pho challenge where you had a chance to have your picture on the wall for defeating it. I’ve always wanted to enter a food challenge so perhaps I’ll enter this at some point.

The Food.

The Vietnamese iced coffee came first. I’m not usually a fan of cold coffee but had never tried this take. I’m so glad I did. It was delicious. I could taste condensed milk and high quality coffee throughout.

The spring rolls to my delight were baked as opposed to deep fried. They were crispy and delicious. They tasted even better because they weren’t drenched in oil as normal. Unlike some spring rolls that taste like a mouth full of pastry, these had a generous filling. They were also huge! I struggled to finish all three as these weren’t your typical sized spring rolls.

The pho was incredible and fresh. I couldn’t choose which pho to have so was happy they offered this deluxe version for those who want it all. The beef slices used were of very high quality and all the ingredients were crisp and tasty. The broth itself was well seasoned and had strong tones of ginger, spring onion and meat throughout.

I had a taste of my guest’s meal too (because I’m a typical woman who wants whatever you’re having as well). The chicken was incredible and the dish, even down to the chilli used, was fresh and well thought out. My guest seemed pretty impressed.

Above all, I was delighted not only by the friendliness of the staff, but how affordable this was with such high quality ingredients. My meal came to just under £14, (£17 with the iced coffee) which is extremely reasonable for the choice and size of what I had. The portions were monumental and I actually took home half of my pho which I then had for dinner too. Their prices are around £1 cheaper per dish if you get your food to go.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re passing through the area of for an affordable date where you could easily eat for under £10 or £20 for a more extravagant selection. There’s also something really refreshing about spending your money somewhere so family orientated. I felt really at home.

http://www.unionviet.com

The Food Doll.

The Best Vietnamese in London?- Saigon Saigon Review.

Considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, Vietnamese is a combination of fresh ingredients and an explosion of distinct flavours. Some of the most amazing dishes of the cuisine range from Pho and spring rolls to rice, noodles and seafood.

The word on the foodie street was that Saigon Saigon in West London, served the best of its kind in London so I couldn’t wait to try.

Location and Decor.

The restaurant is in a good location with great transport links and an abundance of free parking after 7. The outside itself was dramatic and bold. You couldn’t miss it if you tried.

Inside was decorated with strong lines of mahogany and cream which gave a very vintage Asian feel. The restaurant it self was very cosy and warm.

First Impressions

On first impression, I noticed it was fairly loud. Typical of a Friday night but at 9pm, I was quite surprised it was still so busy. A testament to their popularity perhaps?

Service was initially a little slow; it took around 18 minutes before we were offered drinks. The waitress also didn’t seem to know the menu very well which we were understanding to but it was a little frustrating. The wine we were advised to get was the opposite of the flavours we asked for but this was changed quickly with no fuss. Their menu is very extensive so take some time to see all the options and ask for recommendations.

Starters.

For starters, we ordered a selection of foods to try. We opted for the pork meatballs with hoisin sauce, the Vietnamese spring rolls and the soft shell crab.

The starters all came quickly, with an amazing side of rice noodles or fresh seasoned salad. A tasty touch.

The deep fried soft shell crab was one of the best I have ever had. It was crispy on the outside with an incredible flavour inside. It came on a bed of garlic and chilli with a side of salt, pepper and lime. A must try. I’m actually still dreaming of its taste right now.

The Vietnamese spring rolls were tasty too. The pastry crunched in your mouth as the prawns and meat burst out. The mixture inside was well balanced with a good ratio of meat to vegetables.

The pork meatballs were succulent and well seasoned in coriander, chilli and topped with mint. I’m not a huge fan of pork but heard good things about this dish. I was most impressed that they came with a size of fresh egg noodles. The Hoisin sauce really took this dish further for me. Overall, a great trio of starters that were very filling.

Mains.

Once again, we went for a range of dishes for variety.

We chose the rib eye steak salad, the tamarind prawns and a vegetarian stir fry with egg fried rice on the side.

The first dish I bolted for was the rib eye steak. Marinated cubes of succulent steak with chilli and garlic on a bed of fresh salad and tomatoes. This was, to put it simply, amazing. The steak was perfectly cooked and sauce it was drenched it was incredible.

The tamarind prawns were a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Six juicy large prawns in a sticky delicious marinade hit the spot perfectly.

The vegetables and the egg fried rice were great additions. The egg fried rice was cooked so well that I would have been happy to eat this on its own. (I do feel the vegetable dish was over priced for what came with it and that this should be offered as a side.)

The waiters became very attentive as the night quietened down and topped up our wine glasses without question. They also wrapped up our meal to go as we didn’t manage to finish despite it being so delicious. I was tempted to just keep eating until I popped but then remembered that taking some home means I get to taste it all again.

We didn’t opt for desserts as we were super full, but we were given sugared ginger and tamarind sweets which was a very nice touch.

The meal came to around £45 each (including service) which sounds pricey at first glance but my guest and I had: a bottle of wine, three starters, three mains and two sides. A very reasonable price. Without wine and with just one starter, main and side each, this meal would be around £20 each.

This was definitely some of the best Vietnamese I’ve had and needless to say, I’ll definitely be back. The dishes I absolutely recommend are: the soft shell crab and the steak salad. Next time, I aim to try a classic Pho, their calamari and their steam boat menu. (A dish that comes with raw ingredients that you choose which then cook slowly in a special broth on your table)

The atmosphere was buzzing and the staff were nice albeit a little slow at times due to the busy nature of the restaurant.

Above all, what made the food even better for me was that alongside being extremely delicious, it was a healthier option both nutrition wise and bank account wise. This would make an amazing date venue or catch up restaurant.

Thank you Saigon Saigon, I am swooning over your food and can’t wait to come back.

The Food Doll.