We always enjoy some good Vietnamese food when traveling, since it’s one of the cuisines that we really don’t find around rural NH. So, on our last Sunday in London, we decided to head up to Shoreditch. While London definitely doesn’t have anywhere near as much of a Vietnamese population as the United States, it still has enough Vietnamese people to have a reasonably good community and several restaurants, mostly centered in Shoreditch, mostly located on Kingsland Road, and one of the best-regarded places is Sông Quê, where we were meeting up with Sophie’s brother and family for lunch.
We had tried to go here before (in 2010, when Rick and Sarah Scully were with us), but they were closed, and we ended up down the street at Tay Do, which was quite good as well. This time, however, Sông Quê was open.
Inside, it has the typical interior and ambiance as more phở joints, with the typical cheap chairs and tables that often resemble some sort of church basement more than a restaurant, but my years of Vietnamese dining back to the Phở 75 days in Arlington taught me to disregard this sort of thing. Menu-wise, Sông Quê has a pretty through menu of phở and bún dishes, with a healthy assortment of appetizers. We ended up ordering plates of both chả giò (spring rolls) and gỏi cuốn (summer rolls).
The chả giò were a great start to the meal, with very moist and spicy pork filling and perfectly crisped wrappers. I always prefer when a place serves up the rolls with lettuce so you can wrap the roll in a bit of lettuce, but the quality of these rolls was good enough I didn’t let the lack of lettuce bother me.
The gỏi cuốn were even better. There’s a fine art to getting all the flavors of gỏi cuốn nicely balanced: you’ve got to have some nice mint and basil notes, a bit of noodle and carrot, and perfectly done shrimp, but they had all of these spot on. Finally, my own cooking has shown that there’s a fine art of steaming the rice wrappers on these so that they are soft and not too chewy, but not sticky or gummy, and they’ve got that nicely dialed in as well.
For the main course, while tempted to go for my other Vietnamese favorite, Bún chả giò thịt nướng (rice noodles with chopped spring roll and pork), I ended up going for my most frequent dish: Phở tái nạm gần (phở with tendon, rare eye round, and fatty brisket). And Sông Quê didn’t disappoint: it was quite a good bowl of pho. The broth was rich, spicy, and flavorful, with the flavors soaking into the soft but still toothy tendon. The rare eye of round was rate and nicely tender, while the brisket was meaty and delicious. Add in some very fresh veggies and noodles perfectly cooked without falling apart, and you’ve got a good, quality bowl of phở.