Lunch for a fiver? Mutter these words to a Londoner and it’s highly likely you’ll get their undivided attention.
We’ve recently discovered the £5 before 3pm menu at Viet Grill and since it’s been our regular haunt for a cheap Vietnamese lunch. I usually don’t wander so far down the Hackney Kingsland strip but it does always surprise me that so many of the restaurants are pretty much empty during lunch service. On my first lunch visit the restaurant was packed to the brim and again the other restaurants on Kingsland sadly empty. Could Viet Grill’s food be that much superior or was it the £5 lunch pulling crowds in?
Viet Grill is on the south side of Kingsland Rd and is housed in a somewhat fancy interior compared to some of their local competition. The restaurant group also own Cay Tre on Old St, though this branch caters more to a ‘one-bowl’ noodle and rice crowd than the flagship restaurant.
The full menu can be found here, but the £5 menu is restricted to typical one person dishes such as pho noodles (usually £7) and other soup noodles, as well as a selection of bun (rice noodles), com (rice) and other stir fry dishes.
Their Pho Bo Tai (beef noodle soup with raw sliced beef), has a decent aromatic broth with decent quality beef. It’s not the best broth out there, but it’s far from the worst. The serving is a little on the small side but it’s served with the usual Vietnamese basil and bean sprouts. Strangely they serve their herb platter with a single whole chilli on the plate, so if you do want to add it to your soup, you need to do a little spoon cutting to open up the chilli.
Viet Grill’s Bun Nem is quickly becoming my regular order. Fresh rice vermicelli bun noodles with pickled carrots, white turnip, bean spouts, Vietnamese herb and lettuce all topped with imperial spring rolls (prawn filled) and Bo La Lot (grilled marinade beef wrapped in betal leaf). With a rice paper wrapping, the spring rolls were more northern in style and maintained a decent crunch. The filling was made up of predominantly carrots and a single prawn (tail in tact) so it would have been nice if they included other ingredients to allow them to live up to their ‘imperial’ name (black fungus, glass noodles). The betal leaf wrapped beef was juicy, though unfortunately were deep-fried rather than grilled. I do wish that they didn’t pre-mix the nuoc mam fish sauce through the noodles as I don’t usually add so much. On a positive note, I could taste that they used chopped perilla in their herb mixture which was a nice surprise as very few places use it.
On my next visit I am quite interested to try their Bun cha Hanoi which the description reads as lemongrass pork atop rice vermicelli, as I’m assuming it’s similar/same as Bun Thit Nuong, my all time favourite Vietnamese dish.
Drinking tap water with our meal, it was almost a shock to receive a bill that was exactly £10. Throw in a few extra coins for service and two hungry happy people can walk away well fed for next to nothing. I’ve never really been impressed with their dinner offer in the past, but for such a bargain lunch, I will be back in a heart beat.
Afternote: I noticed yesterday Viet Grill tweeting open meal invitations to london bloggers so I suspect many more reviews of Viet Grill are to come. I’m not really sure how I feel about restaurants doing this as unlike my 9-5 job where I feel I’m a bit of a PR machine, blogging is my space for uninfluenced mishmash.