There seems to have been a surge of Vietnamese restaurants in London, and as with most Ethnic establishments in this city, they seem to fall into two categories: you've got the trendy restaurants with chic logos graphically designed with modern fonts and a menu that's been heavily smacked with Western flavors, and you've got the Asian take-away-esque ones. Places like Mien Tay, where it's bare and charmingly tacky, where it's just this down to earth Vietnamese family-run restaurant.
I went to their Battersea branch. And as with all of their restaurants in London, there's something very authentic and endearing about its shabby interior. Densely-packed incongruous furniture dotted with pots of plastic plants. A theme of white and jade-green and... all a bit alarm-bell-ringing until you sit down and eat.
Late Autumn this year, they celebrated their 6th anniversary with 6 new dishes. Yes, 6 years is quite some time especially as they've in this time managed to open up 3 or 4 branches not just in London. The focus is on Southern Vietnamese cuisine made with authenticity and they've had rave reviews.
So of the new dishes there is a deep-fried monkfish which is pleasant. The batter crisp, the flesh not overcooked. There is a whole grilled squid that was on the bland and (extremely) chewy side, which, however, was the only disappointing part of the evening, as then there are some bright cheerful salads. There is a fabulous pomelo salad with chicken and prawns that's got those lovely bitter and sharp citrus notes flowing through; and a kohlrabi salad with squid, where fortunately the squid is tender, the kohrabi crunchy and it's altogether coated with a fresh and zingy dressing.
So far so good but the dishes that really make your eyes beam with excitement are the two new mains.
There is a sensational char-grilled poussin with honey and herbs and it was moist and sweet and sticky. Then there is a stewed snake head fish (similar to eel, just uglier), and it's rich and intense with flavor. Both perfect with a bowl of steamed rice.
If Battersea's a trek away, there are also two branches in Shoreditch, serving both their all-time favourites and their new dishes. On those miserable London days where the cold air bites and the sky a color of dishwater -- try out Mien Tay for some bright authentic Vietnamese sunshine and flavours.
180 Lavender Hill Battersea
London SW11 5TQ
020 7350 0721