In London, most Vietnamese restaurants seem to serve the same fare, with recognisable dishes like pho and bahn mi. A version of Vietnamese Chinese food rather than pure Vietnamese cuisine, as an attempt at a gentle introduction to the cuisine with flavours that a London clientele might be more familiar with in Chinese cuisine.
At Mrs Le’s Bahn Mi and Grill, they have introduced a new Vietnamese dining concept that replicates the authentic flavours of the open air Grill restaurants like those you would find in the Mekong Delta. There are none of the Chinese Vietnamese dishes on this menu.
You might not be familiar with the dishes but they are very approachable and totally delicious. With some help from Van Le, Mrs Le’s daughter, we ordered a selection of their most popular dishes. Van’s husband presides over the kitchen, dishing up authentic flavours that is true to what you will find in Vietnam. They use machinery and ingredients sourced from Vietnam for authenticity.
Soon, they will be making their own baguette for the Bahn Mi sandwiches. We were told that the Vietnamese baguette is softer than the French version which they are using now. Along with this, they make their own pate and whipped Vietnamese butter.
On every table, you will find little pots of condiments including an unusual pickled garlic. On the menu, there is a whole section with other pickles like scallions, morning glory, radishes and lemongrass. Every home makes their own pickles which they have with every meal. Mrs Le’s pickled lemongrass was fragrant, slightly zingy and we found it to be the ideal flavour enhancer for the dishes we ordered.
It’s very exciting to find a menu with so many new ingredients and flavours. From the drinks menu, try Mrs Le’s Special Egg soda, yes, a soda with some whipped egg in it.
These are the dishes I’d highly recommend you try.
Bahn Kot Mien Tay, a soft pancake with prawns that you eat wrapped in lettuce and dipped in a chilli and garlic spiked fish sauce.
Follow that up with the boneless, stuffed chicken wings that comes with a zingy lemongrass sauce.
If you are adventurous, try the stuffed freshwater snails, a very popular dish in Vietnam. The stuffing is made up of snails, mushrooms and pork which is then steamed and served with fresh herbs.
The grilled oysters are served with Mrs Le’s cheese sauce, which sounds wrong but tastes so right.
If you want to add some carbs to your meal, have the crispy belly pork with vermicelli cakes, eaten like the pancakes above, wrapped in lettuce. Add some of the pickles to enhance the flavour. This dish is best shared as it is quite a large portion.
From the grill, try the whole grilled marinated poussin. Smokey crisp skin, deep layers of flavour from their house marinade, served bubbling hot. Don’t stand on ceremony for this one, use your fingers. Another great dish to share.
One item on the menu not to miss is the crispy sticky rice cakes, hidden away at the back of the menu. This is a small side dish which comes with a big story. I won’t spoil it by telling you the story, order this and ask them to tell you. These were so unexpectedly delicious that I’ll have to try and replicate this at home. It really is sticky rice with a very crispy fried crust. The menu says that it is a dish eaten at new year but Van tells us that she has it every day and I can see why.
A speciality of the house which we didn’t get to try is the My Tho Noodle soup, which is named after the small town in the Mien Tay region where the family is from. People drive for hours just to have this dish. It is hidden away in the noodle section of the menu but it means we have to return to sample this. Westerns
Vietnamese desserts like most Asian desserts are not that tempting to Western palates but this dessert/drink might be an exception. Try the Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trứng), which is Vietnamese Coffee served in a glass topped with a whipped up concoction of egg yolks and condensed milk. You eat it with a spoon rather than drinking it. It is the must-have drink in Hanoi. If you don’t fancy that, have a Vietnamese drip coffee instead.
Mrs Le’s new Vietnamese Grill is a triumph, great flavours and so many exciting new ingredients and dishes. Don’t be like most of the other customers that night, who sat in this new restaurant but ordered the standard Chinese Vietnamese dishes from Mien Tay next door. They were missing out on so much.
Mrs Le’s Bahn Mi and Grill is on Lavender Hill, a short walk from Clapham Junction station. Well worth a visit, only 15 mins from Victoria. They offer Bahn Mi to takeaway and a lunch menu option too.
Mrs Le’s Bahn Mi and Grill
178 Lavender Hill,
London SW11 5TQ
020 7924 1777
EatCookExplore was a guest of Mrs Le