Sunday, 12 August 2007

Hanoi Cafe

I'm a big fan of Vietnamese food, so much so that when Mr. A&N came to decide on a honeymoon destination, I lobbied for Vietnam in the belief it would guarantee 2 weeks of good eating. Mr. A&N had already been there, so the choice shifted to my other favorite food country that does great soups, Japan. More about my ramen obsession another time; this post is about pho.

Hanoi Cafe, in London's little Vietnam at the bottom of the Kingsland Road, has been my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in London for some time, though I hadn't eaten there in a couple of years. After trying a few restaurants on that strip and discovering Hanoi Cafe, I managed to eat there 3 times in the first week of finding it. Pretty good going, even for me. Their pho was the most fragrant, delicious, warming version of the dish I had tasted - it smelled alluring and was infused with so much wonderful spice that it was a wrench for me to have to finish the bowl and have none left. Hanoi Cafe's menu is long so Ithere was enough temptation to stray from the pho (their clay pot pork in a sweet vinegar was also excellent) but it was always to the pho I returned.

And so I returned to the Hanoi Cafe this week, knowing I would get my typical summer rolls and pho and be very happy for it. Except, sadly, this wasn't quite the case. I was first disappointed when eating the summer rolls. Despite the visible coriander leaves and protruding prawns, it tasted like...nothing. Not even the peanuty dipping sauce could muster much of a flavor. I was braced for a pho that would let me down too, and with that expectation in mind, I wasn't disappointed. The soup didn't give off it's fragrant smell, and the stock just tasted of stock (I even got a mouthful of undissolved stock cube with one bite).Having not been there for 2 years, I can't say when the standards turned, or if I was simply there on a fairly bad night. Perhaps it is my fault for staying away so long. But my loyalty has been shaken, and my next visit to the Kingsland Road will see my trying out another Vietnamese place, in the hope of finding a new favorite.


Mike said...

Hi, good to see you at the weekend, here is that post about berry-picking in Sweden I told you about.

Madeleine and Hugh said...

The pictures turned out well! Sorry the food was disappointing but maybe it will be the incentive we need to visit the other 10 vietnames restaurants on the street. Look forward to seeing you soon. mx

Niamheen said...

Such a shame. I love good vietnamese food and that is generally a good spot. I have heard from two different people that the Hanoi Café has been hit and miss of late. Hopefully they'll sort it out.