Posted by - 17 January 2011 - 4 Comments

Banh Mi Bay - homestyle Vietnamese in London

One of the perils of having a mother who is a fantastic South East Asian cook is that I'm often disappointed when I eat out.  The fact is no steaming bowl of pho from Kingsland Road, can ever compare to the fragrant broth of my mum's homemade pho. 

Vietnamese cuisine relies heavily on fresh and good quality ingredients, and the test of a good Vietnamese restaurant is in its pho broth.   Nothing can quite describe walking into a kitchen and smelling that delicious and distinctive aroma - it's something that can't be faked, masked by lots of spices or recreated  instantly from a packet, but from hours of simmering and practice.

Bay special banh mi
I've given up on eating Vietnamese food that could compare to my mum's cooking, but Banh Mi Bay is a quality substitute. 'Banh Mi' meaing the Franco-Viet baguette that is much feted to replace the taco as the ethnic street food du jour, is a real find.

The chic little eatery's interior, positioned on the corner of Theobald Road/Grays Inn Road takes influence from France, but rather than recreating the ambiance from 1950s French Indochina the decor looks like a Provencal country dining room complete with pine furniture, whitewash chairs and side board.

This is our third visit to Banh Mi Bay and on previous visits the order has been the same Bay banh mi (£3.50) for the AB and  shredded caramel pork bun (£7), but on this occasion we decided to bite the bullet and order  a bowl of pho. There are several options to choose from and I go for the dac biet or special which includes a combination of brisket and flank cuts of beef.
I'm impressed when it finally arrives with all the accompaniments, but what of the flavours?  I'd be lying if I said this was the best bowl of pho I've ever tasted (that accolade belongs to my mother), but it was much better than some of the tepid and aniseed laden creations I've eaten in the many Vietnamese eateries in East London.  If I could award it a star I'd give it a three and a half  out of five- not delicious but on a cold winter's day it hits the spot.

And on the the crusty baguette it's named after I've never been bowled over by the banh mi here, however, the AB thinks it's tasty but I think it's because he loves banh mi.  The bread is incredibly crispy, and the meat tasty but it just misses the mark for me. I find the filling a bit dry and the pickled daikon and carrots bland.

Chargrilled pork bun
But it's not all bad.   The bun is one dish worth returning for.  This fresh and light combination of cold vermicelli noodles topped with slightly charred meat, crushed peanuts and a sweet and moreish nuoc cham (chili fish sauce) is divine.

Verdict:  It may not be good as my mum's home cooking, but with  it's friendly service and reasonable prices Banh Mi Bay is not a bad attempt at home style Vietnamese cooking.

Banh Mi Bay on Urbanspoon
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Mrs S said...

This looks fantastic. The last Banh Mi I had was in Paris. I will definitely have to try this soon!

Sophie said...

Where do you go in Paris? Would be great to get your top tips, as the only places I've been have been taken to my mum and I can't remember the name of.

London Chow said...

Not even the pho at Song Que? :)

A pal of mine has been raving about Bahn Mi Bay since it started business but I've never had the chance to drop by. Well, the only banh mi that I've come across in London is the one at Broadwalk Market (there's only one Vietnamese stall there). Have you tried that?

Canada Viagra said...

There's not to much to say about this, but thai food it;s delicious I love it specially the soups and it's curious because almost all this food it;s very easy to make.

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