Mien Tay (Battersea, London, UK)

Well, last Fall was another of my famous “Death Marches” across metropolitan areas, this time focusing on London (specifically, walking from Putney to Greenwich). But before the main even, I spent some time with family exploring some of the more interesting boroughs of London, starting with an outing to Battersea, Clapham, and Brixton. During our outing, we decided that some lunch was in order, so we stopped in for Vietnamese. It wasn’t that long ago that Vietnamese food was a bit of a niche in London, but since I wrote the review of Tay Do back in 2011, Shoreditch has basically become the Phở Mile (including Sông Quê which I visited back in 2013). But more recently, quite a few additional options have been showing up, and establishing themselves in other parts of town. One of the more notable ones is Mien Tay, a chain with locations in Battersea, Fulham, Kingsland Road, and Wood Green. We went to their Battersea location, since it was along our walk.

While many of the Vietnamese places in London follow the same general aesthetic of Vietnamese-American places by having minimal decor, Mien Tay is actually pretty nicely decorated, and the tables not crammed in too tightly, so we had a nice amount of space to relax during our lunch. Menu-wise, Mien Tay is also nice in that they aren’t just a phở joint; they’ve got a nice selection of Vietnamese dishes included rice dishes, other noodle dishes, and several pan-fried fish examples. But since it had been a while since my last phở experience, I decided to go classic with cà phê sữa đá, chả giò, and a bowl of phở tai. The cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with milk) was a pleasant change-up; I’ve always had a love for iced coffee and while it is now ubiquitous in the US, I’m finding it still is a niche item in many other countries (even Canada). So it was nice to sit back and relax with a nice, cold, and very, very strong cà phê sữa đá.

Next up the the chả giò (fried spring rolls), and here was a pleasant surprise: in the US I almost always get these made with the paper sheet rice paper wrapper that result in a mostly smooth but slightly bubbly exterior. Here, however, they bánh hỏi, which is basically rice vermicelli noodled pressed and woven into paper-like sheets, making a more lace-like and pillowy wrapper while also letting more of the oil inside the filling. The result was a flavorful, light, and very crispy version of one of my favorite fried spring roll varieties.

For the actual phở, this was a rather enjoyable rendition: the broth in particular had the rich, flavorful, and star-anise laden deliciousness I love in a good bowl of phở. The noodles were cooked perfectly (with good rice vermicelli, they have a short half-life, starting to soften almost immediately), the veggies fresh and crisp, and the meat nice tender ribbons of beefy goodness. I’d definitely get this again.

Of the various phở joints I’ve done in London? Mien Tay is near the top of the list, and I’d love to come back and try either my second-favorite Vietnamese dish (bun chả giò, chopped fried spring rolls over vermicelli noodles) or another dish off their surprisingly broad menu.

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