Posts Tagged With: Cheap and cheerful

Riding Shotgun: Catching up over Filipino at Kalesa

Copyright of Kalesa. Sourced from Kalesa website

Copyright of Kalesa. Sourced from Kalesa website

Cuisine: Filipino

Address: 59 Lavender Hill, SW11 5QN

Area: Battersea

Nearest Station: Clapham Junction/Clapham Common

Tel.: 020 3417 5639

Website: http://www.kalesa.co.uk/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Comfort food, Casual dining, Taste of home, Introduction to new cuisines

You know how I am with my Filipino food. Always banging on and on about it, telling people how good it is, how it’s overlooked gabba gabba hey.

But without somewhere proper to actually take people to so that they can try the real deal, that doesn’t involve me having to cook it all (though The Adobros are pretty good BOOOM), it all becomes a bit problematic to convince the good people of London of the merits of Filipino food… we have a bit of a dearth of good Filipino restaurants in town.

And so here steps up Kalesa to give it all a good shot. Some friends had been here for a breakfast last year, and whilst we all know that Filipino breakfasts are automatically the Breakfasts of Champions and hence amazing (see shamelessly self-promoting photo below), these friends had relayed to me that Kalesa’s version was actually pretty decent.

Enlisting the help of two good friends of mine – an Irish couple who, though not being massively experienced in the ways of world food, are certainly game to try anything – I finally got myself into gear and made it down one fine and balmy August evening and made the long trek to the far end of Lavender Hill from Clapham Junction.

Even though from the outside, the place is nothing special (it’s got that very neighbourhood-café-on-the-cheap feel about it, with added tropical decorations), once through the door the welcome was extremely warm, if a little shy. The guys here are evidently doing their bit to show off the good side of Filipinos and the Philippines – apart from the Filipino hospitality, there are photos and brochures (courtesy of the Department of Tourism) all over the place displaying enticing scenes of white beaches, verdant hillsides, exotic wildlife, fresh produce… oh, to be in the Philippines right now!

But we are in the Battersea/Clapham borderlands, on the drab Lavender Hill. Will Kalesa’s food be able to transport us to the tropics?

Laing: First up on the menu is laing. A dish from the Bicol region, it is typically taro leaves stewed with garlic and chilli in coconut milk. As an aside, I’ve always wondered why chillies never took as big a hold in the Philippines as elsewhere in Asia – after all, chilli was ‘discovered’ by the Spanish in Mexico, and the Manila-Acapulco Galleon was the primary trade route between the Americas and Asia… I digress. Back to Kalesa, and their take on a Bicolano favourite. It was creamy, sweet, savoury and just the right level of spice; additionally, the taro leaves were of the right consistency – think creamed spinach. I was pretty happy with what we had, and so were my friends.

Laing and pakbet - so dainty!

Laing and pakbet – so dainty!

Pakbet: Pakbet, or in its longer form, pinakbet (which I am told is itself a shortened version of the Ilocano word, pinakebbet, meaning shriveled), is a vegetable sauté/stew, often including bitter melon (ampalaya) and flavoured with fermented shrimp paste (bagoong). Still interested? You should be. Again, the vegetables were the right texture, retaining some bite despite being stewed and steeped for some time, and the bagoong provided enough savouriness without being overpowering. And again, it was a hit with my friends, despite their having had no prior idea of what fermented shrimp paste should look, smell or taste like. Perhaps what helped was the liberal smattering of crispy pork belly (lechon kawali), which we ordered as an addition to the pakbet. Before you ask, pork and shrimp is actually a well-established food combination in the Philippines (you will see pork binagoongan i.e. pork cooked in bagoong on many a menu out there), and it’s a brilliant one. The lechon kawali was excellently crispy, providing a good and meaty texture to the stew in all the right ways.

Sizzling Pork Sisig: Ahh, sisig. How do we get the world to love you? After all, people readily eat ox cheek, they have crispy pig ears… so it’s really not that much of a leap to consider eating pig head, is it? Sisig is finely diced pig head – jowls, ears, snout and all – that is cooked with citrus, garlic and chilli, and often served very crispy on a sizzling platter. It is an unapologetic dish, packed full of flavour and texture. Kalesa had it all: the zing of the lemon, the piquancy of the chilli, the savoury depth of the pork, the crispy fried bits and the chewiness of the cartilage. Mix it all in with plain steamed rice, and what you have is good ol’ comfort food. However, I do prefer my sisig to be crispier (Kalesa falls short here), as I can understand how the cartilage can throw some people (myself included) off, but let me tell you: my friends LOVED it. Absolutely LOVED it. It was, in my friend’s softly-spoken and compellingly comforting Belfast brogue, “the best dish of the night”. I think that says it all, really.

Giving the sizzling pig head a good mix-mix

Giving the sizzling pig head a good mix-mix

Leche Flan: My friends may have spoken prematurely, for the leche flan of Kalesa was a brilliant way to end our gastronomic journey through the Philippines, which had so far taken in Bicol, Ilocos and Pampanga. For the uninitiated, leche flan is the Filipino take on Spanish crème caramels, except significantly richer – what, why wouldn’t you use condensed milk instead of regular milk or cream?? Kalesa’s version sat very prettily on its plate, the top that perfect caramelised amber colour and the rest a creamy yellow. Once that spoon went in, you could feel the dense creaminess of the flan, which just melted away in your mouth. It was delightful. It was rich. It was good.

Leche flan. Decadence!

Leche flan. Decadence!

 

And so we left Kalesa on good terms with the place; I felt pretty pleased with the restaurant’s efforts to provide a good introduction to the dishes (the menu descriptions read very well, and even indicate which part of the Philippines the dishes come from), and my friends were glad that I had brought a potential new ‘local’ to their attention.

 

VERDICT – A good place. With a cheery neighbourhood vibe and, most importantly, hearty and fulfilling dishes that are actually well-executed, Kalesa has propelled itself to the top of my list of Filipino restaurants to eat out at in London. Shame it’s not the best-located place; it is, however, definitely worth the visit.

Currently listening to: Protest the Hero – Mist

Advertisements
Categories: Filipino | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lunchtime fun time in Croydon: Part 1

Nearest Station: East Croydon/West Croydon

My team got moved down to Croydon in January this year – let me tell you this, it is a very different place from Canary Wharf. But whilst there aren’t that many suits and ties down there, there is still a Waitrose!!

Image

This isn’t Croydon…

However, unlike a few of my colleagues, I was rather okay with the transition: I was rather familiar with shopping and eating in Croydon from my days living in Surrey, and my commute is now hella easy and crowd-free… and I suppose I was getting a bit tired of the samey-chainey food options in the Wharf (WASABI I HATE YOU SO MUCH).

Sure, I would miss the lunchtime window-shopping, the glass-steel-marble skyscrapers, the preppy hot girls in their finest office wear, the… erm, prestige I guess of working in Canary Wharf? But hey, I love (re)discovering different parts of London; Croydon lunchtimes would therefore be fun times.

Over the past few months I have therefore taken it upon myself to discover the best in lunchtime dining in Croydon – not just for my stomach’s sake, but also maybe for my career’s sake: I think I’m well on my way to becoming my team’s (hopefully indispensable) Food Guy. See below for the results of my exhaustive, scientific and completely objective study.

 

Uncle Lim’s Malaysian Kitchen

Cuisine: Malaysian

Address: Whitgift Centre, CR0 1RZ

Tel.: 020 8688 8378

Website: N/A

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Filling meal

Ah yes, good old Uncle Lim’s; I’ve known you for a long time.

Cheap and cheerful Malaysian canteen that can whip up dishes fresh from the kitchen or, the more usual option for me, a selection of food from their hot counter, packaged into a Medium Meal Deal (rice/noodles, one meat, one veg, one drink) or their Large Meal Deal (rice/noodles, two meat, one veg, one drink).

Portions are hearty (the Large will put you into a food coma. You have been warned), the prices are cheap, the turnover of the food is fast enough, and the quality itself decent for what it is.

The Malaysian lamb curry may be a bit too bony and the salt and pepper squid a bit chewy, so I would go for the beef rendang (rich and flavourful but not too spicy) and the sambal aubergines – they are both delightful. The rice is soft and fluffy, whilst the noodles are a bit plain but more-ish in that “fried food tastes so good” way.

I also recently had the char kway teow; very generous portion and again very tasty. Rather surprisingly, the prawns were not the piddly kind you get in the supermarket, but more properly-sized beasts. Not bad for a canteen in Croydon!

Char kway teow = warmth in my belly

Char kway teow = warmth in my belly

It certainly does not stack up against Satay House or Melur, my two favourite Malaysian restaurants in London, but then again Uncle Lim’s has no pretensions (and certainly not the prices) to be like them. This is a place for a filling and hearty lunch that delivers flavour, if not sophistication.

I took my team’s business analysts here for lunch once; several have been back, including very recently for a colleague’s leaving lunch. If it’s good enough for them, surely it’s good enough for you?

VERDICT – A good place. Let me make clear that this is not the height of fine Malaysian dining in the capital, but it’s not trying to be like that, and so cannot be rated in the same way. You want something different in Croydon? You want teh tarik? You want a hearty meal that delivers on flavour for a good price? Then Uncle Lim can feed you, and he will feed you well.

 

Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney

Copyright of Chai Corner. Sourced from Chai Corner website

Copyright of Chai Corner. Sourced from Chai Corner website

Cuisine: Indian/Pakistani

Address: North End Mall, CR0 1UB

Tel.: 020 8633 1779

Website: http://www.chai-corner.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Takeaway

I was rather surprised to spot these guys in the Allders mall: Indian street food in Croydon? Seems a bit too hipster for the area… but the more important question is – how do they square off against the currently on-trend Dosa Deli and Everybody Lovelove Jhal Muri Express (as if that’s even a legitimate question)?

The reason I group Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney together is because a cursory internet search and first-hand experience shows them to be owned by the same people – and funnily enough, they do seem to cook each other’s food, with the ladies at Chilli Chutney producing the wraps for the lads at Chai Corner. Interesting business plan…

Regardless of who is making the wraps, they are tasty enough for lunch. The first time I went, I had the paneer tikka wrap: adequate amount of paneer filling bulked out by salad and a flavourful if mild tikka marinade/sauce/spice. I have since followed this up with other wraps, but the meat options present a rather unremarkable dining experience.

I hid away in the corner to eat this. THE SHAME (or rather the smell)

I hid away in the corner to eat this. THE SHAME (or rather the smell)

The pakora were good and crisp and nicely savoury, if rather oily, but the samosa is a nice and fresh little parcel of deep-fried goodness (just about superseding my love of cold 85p samosas from the corner shops, the height of gastronomic experience). A further visit for a sit-down meal with mia madre saw us having the tandoori chicken – a succulent and juicy affair – whilst the lamb seekh kebab salad was… interesting in its combination of olives and sun-dried tomatoes with lamb seekh.

At least the tikka was the right colour

At least the tandoori was the right colour

Are those... sun-dried tomatoes and olives? YES :-(

Are those… sun-dried tomatoes and olives in an ‘Indian’ salad? YES 😦

The output is quick, the prices are low and the food is adequate. It certainly makes for a change from the normal wrap experience, not that there are many in Croydon.

VERDICT – An okay experience. Dished out from the rough-and-ready stalls lining the passageway in the rather tired Allders mall, Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney’s food do an admirable job of bringing a different kind of Indian experience to town. It’s not particularly polished, but it ticks all the boxes for a decent and quick lunch.

 

Roti Masters

Copyright of Roti Masters. Sourced from Roti Masters website

Copyright of Roti Masters. Sourced from Roti Masters website

Cuisine: Caribbean

Address: 26a St George’s Walk, CR0 1YG

Tel.: 020 8760 0999

Website: http://rotimasters.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Filling meal, Friendly conversation, Spice

We’re getting into some serious lunch territory here. I’d initially spotted this little bad boy of a café back in December, on our team away day and Christmas lunch outing, and made a mental note to myself to check it out. Further research revealed some very promising reviews; Roti Masters moved high up my hit list.

And who wouldn’t want to try a bit of Trinidadian roti wrap? For the uninitiated, these are a true fusion food from the Caribbean: Indian-inspired flatbreads (roti) filled with Indian-inspired curries using Caribbean meats, spices and ingredients… it’s a recipe for success, one that I hoped that Roti Masters would, well, have mastered (ha!).

The proof of their ability is clear in the number of times I’ve been back: the man with the plan behind the counter now recognises me and has met my colleagues and even my dad and my mum – he now asks how the parents are doing! This is certainly one friendship I am happy to cultivate.

The Curry Goat Roti is a delight – succulent and tender pieces of goat in a highly-spiced and rich sauce, packed into a light and fluffy roti along with a myriad of other delicious fillings inside the light and chewy roti skin. Although it looks small on the plate, first impressions can be deceptive; this bad boy will fill you up.

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at it, but just remember: it used to look like a goat

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at it, but just remember: it used to look like a goat

The saltfish version of the roti is also very tasty and savoury, but I do understand that saltfish can be divisive – however, this is not too salty, so it’s definitely worth a spin.

The least comfortable lunch I had there was when I rather stupidly ordered the Buss Up Shot (the roti skins by themselves – oh so very more-ish in their fluffy doughiness) alongside a Hot Double (roti filled with mushy and hot chana chickpeas) and some palori (chickpea fritters that are ever-so-slightly crunchy on the outside but all chewiness on the inside) – as you can imagine, I ate myself into a food coma, albeit a delicious one. Have those things on separate occasions, not at the same time, or you’ll be falling asleep at work, as I did. But was it worth it? Oh yes…

VERDICT – A good place. Friendly, delicious, wholesome and tasty, Roti Masters is a no-frills café with some banging food at affordable prices. Not sure there’s much more to say oth- oh wait: “Suck it Canary Wharf!! You may have Roka and Le Relais de Venise, but Croydon has Roti Masters! BOOM”

Currently listening to: Sonic Boom Six – For the Kids of the Multiculture

Categories: Caribbean, Indian, Malaysian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I want to break free: On the highway out of Canary Wharf to Noodle Street

Copyright of Noodle Street. Sourced from Noodle Street website

Copyright of Noodle Street. Sourced from Noodle Street website

Cuisine: Chinese

Address: 15-17 Pennyfields, E14 8HP

Area: West India Quay

Nearest Station: Westferry

Tel.: 020 7987 8688

Website: http://www.noodlestreet.co.uk/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Lunchtime fix, Filling meal, Cheap and cheerful, Smart-casual dining, Takeaway

It’s been over a month since I was placed with my client in Canary Wharf.

I find it an absolutely fascinating place, evoking as it does for me a real feel of Central in Hong Kong – the shopping malls, the high-end stores, the skyscrapers, the bankers… but alas, I have found it lacking in good options for Asian, and particularly Chinese, food.

For East Asian options, yes, there is a Royal China, and yes there is a floating restaurant somewhere, and yes there is Itsu, but there is also Wasabi (OH MY GOD WHY DOES THAT PLACE EXIST!?). And as far as I can determine, there is nothing else on the Canary Wharf estate that offers a quick, cheap and cheerful Chinese meal.

This proved rather problematic the other day, when I was struck by an almighty craving for char siu fan at lunchtime. Okay, problematic is an understatement – it was seriously bad. It was an itch that needed scratching, but it was seven long hours before I was able to stumble into one of the Chinese takeaways in New Cross and order some char siu; I think I got a momentary glimpse into the life of a crack addict.

Will someone put this poor sod out of his misery?

Will someone put this poor sod out of his misery?

The next day, I was pointed in the direction of one of the other business analysts who told me about a small place, called Noodle Street, that she quite rated some distance away from the office (‘some distance away’ as in “difficult to squeeze into a short lunch”). Hmm. I had some conflicting thoughts here: a) I had heard her rating Pizza Express as offering some of the best pizzas she’d ever had (I’m such a snob, right?), b) Noodle Street made it sound a bit generic and potentially like a bland pan-Asian restaurant, c) it could be just some cheap and tacky takeaway, and d) was their char siu any good?

It could do, but it did not seem to be the most promising of solutions.

Nevertheless, since last Friday was rather quiet, I decided to take my full lunch hour (and maybe a few minutes more…! Naughty me) and make the trek to check this place out. I hopped on the DLR at Canary Wharf and within minutes I was stepping off at Westferry, moments away from Noodle Street. “Not such a bad journey”, I thought to myself. “Maybe I won’t just get a takeaway – maybe I’ll have a sit down”.

And it’s a decent place for a sit down – cool interiors framed by sleek, clean and modern lines and a green colour code, with pretty awesome-looking bamboo holders for the chopsticks.

I'll just grow my own bamboo, okay? Sourced from Noodle Street website

I’ll just grow my own bamboo, okay? Sourced from Noodle Street website

I then browsed the menu – it was mostly Chinese (with some pan-Asian flourishes), and had some rather surprising entries: turnip cake, xiao long bao, grilled char siu bao, scallop siu mai, and sago pudding for dessert. And look! There it is! Char siu fan! Okay, this wasn’t just some cheap and tacky takeaway with a standard menu; there seemed to be some thought that had gone into this place. This was starting to look promising…

“But”, I hear you say, “crack on it with mate, how was the char siu fan??” Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I did not have any. Instead, I was tempted away by the salt and pepper pork chops with egg fried rice, as I had a fleeting vision of a similar dish that I had in Café de Coral back in Hong Kong some years back.

Salt and pepper pork chops with egg fried rice. So meaty.So eggy. So... ricey?

Salt and pepper pork chops with egg fried rice. So meaty.So eggy. So… ricey?

And I think I chose well. The egg fried rice was not greasy at all and had not been over-fried, allowing the rice to retain its fluffiness. The broccoli again was allowed to retain some of its natural crunchy characteristic and was not over-cooked.

And as for the pork: wow. It was amazingly flavourful, with a wonderful balance of the salt and the pepper, enhanced by sweet and spicy garlic-spring onion-chilli mix in which the pork had been fried. The meat itself was tender enough to be cut into by my spoon, and there was more than enough of it on the plate. For £6.80, it was a fairly sizeable portion with all the components in good proportions to each other.

What more can I say about this dish? It is full of comfort, flavour and happiness and evokes memories of Hong Kong. I am salivating just thinking about it. I need to go back, even if just for that dish. And having completed the 10-15 minute walk back, it is definitely doable in a normal lunch hour.

It's really not that far away from Banker-Land

It’s really not that far away from Banker Land

But of course, the original reason why I went there was for the char siu fan. Let’s hope that Noodle Street can similarly deliver on that dish too. And then I can move on to the beef ho fun, and then the dim sum… the temptations just keep on coming.

VERDICT – I may have been only once, and I may be lionising this place purely based on its local context and not the wider scene of Chinese food in London, but I don’t care. It provided an absolutely scrumptious meal, quick service, relief from the scorching sun, and most importantly of all, a fantastic alternative to the chains of Canary Wharf (j’accuse, Wasabi, j’accuse!). I will most definitely be going back for that char siu fan

Currently listening to: Coheed and Cambria – Number City

Categories: Chinese | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parklife, Bermondsey-style: Caphe House

Copyright of Caphe House. Sourced from Caphe House website

Copyright of Caphe House. Sourced from Caphe House website

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Address: 114 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX

Area: Bermondsey Street

Nearest Station: London Bridge

Tel. No.: 020 7403 3574

Website: http://www.caphehouse.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Lunchtime fix, Cheap and cheerful, Perfect for a summer’s days, Casual dining, Friendly conversation, Takeaway

I love to fill my lunch hour with exploratory walks, which is one of the perks of working in such a diverse city such as London. Whilst working at City Hall, on a whim, I decided to stroll down Bermondsey Street, completely unaware of what I would find down there. It was a warm summer’s day, and I desired to go sit in the park some way down the street. But what to do whilst there? Oh, what’s this? A Vietnamese café conveniently situated right across the road from it?? Happy days!

It’d been some time since I’d had Vietnamese, so I hastily barged my way in and scanned the menu hungrily: banh mi!

By now, I’m sure you must be very aware that banh mi are one of the supposed ‘trend’ foods of recent years (I say this because of the number of new places that have opened up, and the fact that I saw EAT, EAT of all places, selling their own version of banh mi…). But for the uninitiated, banh mi are essentially Vietnamese-style baguette sandwiches, a wonderful culinary marriage of French baguette and Vietnamese ingredients that originated from France’s colonial rule in Indochina.

I dare not offer myself as an expert on banh mi, but I would say that Caphe House has given me some of the best banh mi that I have had in London: excellent portions of crusty bread filled with generous amounts of fillings, with a pork pâté that is a bit stronger than the other banh mi establishments, which adds to the pleasing complexity of the sandwich. I may perhaps be romanticising them and tingeing them with the fond nostalgia that surrounds my City Hall days (and perhaps linking my memories with the rather cute girl who worked there…), but hey that’s still a valid part of the dining experience, isn’t it?

I’ve also had their rice dishes, on those days when I’ve been feeling rather peckish. These are assembled from a whopping great big rice cooker and a salad bar. You do wonder about the freshness of the salad ingredients that top the rice, but when the grilled pork is as wonderfully smokey as Caphe House’s, you don’t complain! I would say that for a lunchtime offering, the rice dishes are a bit overwhelming in terms of size, but at the same time you are probably getting good value for money.

But one should not worry about the risk of a food coma session wrecking an afternoon of work! I always finished my lunches off with a cup of strong Viet caphe. Coming as it does in a sizeable cup, you are certain that you are getting a full wallop of caffeine. And just imagine all that condensed milk lurking in there as well – enough to give anyone diabetes, no doubt.

It’s been some time since I’ve been there for lunch; many other Viet banh mi places have courted my favour, and many of them I would highly recommend too – but for some reason, I am always drawn back by my memories to Caphe House…

VERDICT – Highly recommended. A firm favourite of mine on Bermondsey Street, I got to know them and they got to know me. I still maintain that it dishes up some of the best banh mi I’ve had so far in London. I only wish that I still worked in the area… I hope that they don’t miss me too much.

Currently listening to: Axewound – Cold

Categories: Vietnamese | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fast and furious times: Vietnamese at Le Gia

Copyright of Le Gia. Sourced from Le Gia website

Copyright of Le Gia. Sourced from Le Gia website

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Address: 41-42 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PH

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford Bridge/New Cross

Tel. No.: 020 8333 7491

Website: http://www.legia.co.uk/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Casual dining, Quiet meal

Ah, Deptford. The place was known to me primarily because of its history – its illustrious naval and maritime heritage, and its rather less salubrious reputation as the place where Christopher Marlowe died in a tavern brawl. And although I’d been to neighbouring New Cross several times to visit friends, I’d never dined out in the area. All in all, the place was a big unknown for me.

But now that I live in New Cross, I can appreciate the fact that Deptford is an exciting and varied place with a well-established Vietnamese community, presenting me with several good dining options right on my doorstep. However, the way that I discovered Le Gia harked more towards the ‘Christopher Marlowe’ side of things – the drinking side, not the stabbing, I hasten to add.

Nursing a massive hangover, I woke up after having unexpectedly crashed at my friends’ place in New Cross. Not willing to be more of an imposition, I went out in search of sustenance. Taking a curious and slow stroll towards Deptford, I chanced upon Le Gia, and looking at the menu, decided that this was exactly what I needed.

First impressions were a bit odd. It’s rather ‘hidden’ from the outside, and you wouldn’t expect a Vietnamese restaurant in what looks like an ex-pub. The inside is a bit clinical, the simple tables being dwarfed by the high ceilings. At the time they were playing Vietnamese karaoke videos on the TV above the bar – thankfully, for the time of day, the videos were on silent; I’ve discovered since that the karaoke is a constant feature of Le Gia, and in the evenings they let it all out by unmuting the TV.

The other thing that struck me, and still puzzles me, is that the place was and is usually nearly empty. Every time I have been (although the last time I went was a few months back) the only other diners have typically been a table of the owner’s friends. Usually a bunch of tough-looking and quiet-spoken fellows, I might add. You can draw your own conclusions from that…

Pork and stuff onna noodles - happiness in a bowl

Pork and stuff onna noodles – happiness in a bowl

This emptiness should be off-putting in most cases, but in Le Gia’s case it’s more than out-balanced by the quality of the food – which is why this place intrigues me. I love squid with chilli and salt, and Le Gia definitely delivers with their version: slightly crunchy-fried, a good level of salt and pieces of chilli lying around just asking to be eaten. The vermicelli noodles with grilled pork (and other toppings, depending on the option chosen) are delightful, tasty and filling; the one with grilled pork, spring rolls, pork hash and fresh vegetables is a must. Similarly good for the comfort eater is the grilled pork chop on rice – the rice is slightly sticky and soft, just how I like it; the pork is smoky and tender. Whilst those are the stand-out dishes for me, I’ve always been rather envious of the meals that my family and companions have had with me. Le Gia seems to be rather strong across the board.

Grilled pork chop. Happiness on a plate

Grilled pork chop onna rice. Happiness on a plate

And to finish off the meal, I always order a cup of Viet caphe, being in love with all things with condensed milk in them. It’s a sensibly-sized cup of the strong stuff and drip-filtered slowly in the traditional way. It is achingly sweet – they do not skimp on the condensed milk. Full marks to them here.

I’ve had a chance to try some of the other Vietnamese places in Deptford, but still I’m drawn back to thinking of Le Gia. So why has the place always been empty? I wish I knew. Maybe I’m just blessed with the ability to always go at the right time to get a table. Who knows…

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It makes for a nice local Vietnamese, that’s cheap and cheerful and serves good food. And you can always get a table!

Currently listening to: Sinsemilia – +2 Flics

Categories: Vietnamese | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments