By Maggie Majstrova
Having lived on the Hoxton end of Hackney Road for two years before I braved the move to South London, I’m no stranger to the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road, but even so there still seem to be some that I’ve not managed to visit. So, having set up a double date with some of our closest friends, what better opportunity to try somewhere new?
Mien Tay is actually a small group of restaurants (two on Kingsland Road itself, one in Fulham and one in Battersea), each run by a different family under singular leadership. All of the family members come from the Mien Tay region in Southern Vietnam and are committed to serving the food of this region, in a casual family setting, to the people of London.
Avoiding a small disaster when we first arrived, in the form of my knocking over a small window plant before I even managed to take my seat, we realised our group was feeling particularly indecisive that evening. Nonetheless, we did manage to settle on a selection of dishes to share between the four of us without too much fuss from either party.
Attempting to balance dishes that were a complete novelty to most of us around the table – Lotus Root Salad with Prawn and Pork (£7.50) and Stir-fried Eel with Lemongrass and Chilli (£7.90) – with a few safe bets – ½ Crispy Aromatic Duck (£15) and Plain Rice Vermicelli (2.80) – worked out to be quite a lovely combination.
Although the steamed rice we ordered never quite made it to the table, no one missed it. The Lotus Root Salad was an absolute delight, with the meat sliced surprisingly thinly, a wonderful chilli and peanut dressing and just the right amount of fresh coriander, it’s the absolute standout dish for me. I’d come back just for that.
The stir-fried eel was the runner up for me – the flavours in the sauce were perfectly balanced, with a hint of spice, that was by no means intrusive. Finally, the ‘safe bets’ were just that – a balance to the standout dishes of the evening.
Overall, it was a lovely meal (and at £45 all in, including beers and Jasmin tea, who could complain?) and one which was perfectly light for a Tuesday evening with friends. But, I have to admit Mien Tay isn’t going to make my list of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Kingsland Road. The jury is still out on that one!