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301 Old Street
Over the years, this Vietnamese eatery has established itself as an old faithful for the office workers, club kids and night owls of Shoreditch. It’s seen a few cosmetic changes (the current look features smooth white tables and monochromatic bamboo wall art), but it remains a modest enterprise that puts value to the fore. We’ve eaten our way around the menu and reckon that seafood is the top shout, be it a crispy Devon crab and glass noodle wrap, braised catfish clay pot or grilled monkfish with galangal, turmeric and dill cooked tableside. Meat eaters also have plenty to chew on, from spicy lamb neck curry or stewed pork belly with caramelised coconut juice and a hard-boiled egg to a ‘wokked’ pho loaded with braised beef shin, mustard greens and shimeji mushrooms. Yes, it’s busy (and noisy), but turnaround is steady, even with a brisk takeaway trade.
SquareMeal 2 Stars
Best restaurants in Shoreditch
Best in Hoxton & Shoreditch
Cheap eats in London
301 Old Street
Old Street Station 409m
Old Street Tube Station 530m
The Brewery 986m
Liverpool Street 995m
Mon-Sun 11am-11pm (Fri-Sat -11.30pm Sun -10.30pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
It was hot. We were hungry enough to eat but not hungry enough for anything heavy. Something light, quick and reasonable. Wandering around the vicinity of Hoxton Square we had a fair share of options but at the sign of Cây Tre we knew we had found our place. Vietnamese food was the perfect match. But would Cây Tre meet our specifications on this hot day?
Once again we find ourselves battling through hundreds of alluring dishes. At least the menu is smaller than other Asian restaurants, but at the sight of crab, ox cheek, catfish, Ecuador prawns and dumplings we felt just as flustered. The only way of maximizing our menu insight was choosing a number of small dishes to share. The Salmon Summer Rolls with kaichoy, avocado, fresh ginger & wasabi soy vinaigrette were a delight to start with. Salmon & avocado is an ideal couple and the mild heat from the ginger & wasabi only enhances their relationship. A simple & healthy starter suitable for a warm summer evening.
Salt & Pepper Softshell Crab was so-so, or as we say in Swedish; “sådär” – okay but could have been better. There were too many onions on the side, where a spicy dipping sauce should have been standing instead. The crab was not overly deep-fried which I appreciated but too plain on its own two claws. My pick of the pack was the Okra & Aubergine Curry with coconut cream & cardamom. Tender aubergine, creamy coconut and the subtle bite of the okra created a beautiful and soothing consistency. Loved the concept of the Saigon Xeo Pancake with chicken, shrimps & kaichoy leaves to wrap. Anything in a pancake form tends to create excitement but the filling was a little bare. The accompanying sauce helped the best it could but overall needed something more to pull the flavours together. The pancake itself was pleasantly crispy on the plus side.
With a fresh, creative and affordable approach, Cây Tre serves a mixture of Vietnamese dishes. For the traditional Pho & Ramen lovers, meat fans, curry devotees or seafood enthusiasts, this kitchen has it covered. And for those with an experimental flair, the menu boasts a selection of interesting combinations and ingredients. Next time I’m wandering around Hoxton I might return for the stir-fried Tonkin Jasmine Flower and not sure how we overlooked the Barbequed Somerset Ribs with lemongrass, siracha chilli sauce & galangal.
Food + drink: 2
I ate here recently with two friends and was very disappointed with the quality of the food. We ordered starters (soft shell crab, pork spring rolls and steamed ‘piggy’ Aubergine all of which were very good. However, when the mains arrived the portion sizes were absolutely miniscule, bulking up on veg and not much meat at all.
One of us ordered the squid and veg bowl which came with about 3 extra small pieces of very very chewy squid so it was sent back. I ordered the red lamb curry which was very tasty but had only two piece of actual meat in the bowl and the rest was fat and bones.
For three starters, three mains, 3 soft drinks and no rice the bill came to over £90. We asked them to remove the service charge as we were unhappy with the food and the service wasn't anything worth almost £10. The waitress made me explain why and I had to ask her twice if she would remove the optional service charge.
If I were you I would give this place a wide berth and spend (less) money elsewhere such as the marvellous Tay Do on Kingsland high road.
You won't regret it.
(REVIEW OF SOHO BRANCH) I know good food. I know what it should taste like, how it should look, what the portion sizes should be and how I should feel once I've left a restaurant. Vietnamese food is definitely a favourite of mine; I love it's capacity to fill you up without feeling nauseous or heavy. On the contrary, Vietnamese food is so fresh in flavour, packed herbs, vegetables and plenty of full-flavoured, cleansing dishes bursting with ginger and lemongrass aromas.
When a friend asked me to join her at the newly opened Cay Tre Soho, I was excited to try something different to my usual favourite Vietnamese joint ‘Mien Tay’. The restaurant decor is incredibly different to the usual interiors of a Vietnamese restaurant. Slick white tiled walls, New York-style canteen design with modern accents and lighting house a 50 cover restaurant. Staff seem friendly, if a tad impersonal. The menus are printed on paper placemats and the selection is rather smaller than I'm accustomed to and many of the dishes are the same you will find in most Vietnamese restaurants… Not too many of the dishes stand out as unusual or unique to Cay Tre.
We ordered a selection of starters including classic Vietnamese spring rolls, spicy beef and papaya salad as well as spicy barbecue pork ribs. The ribs were very nice and rather more different than I have tasted anywhere previously; my usually favourite dish of spicy beef salad with a soggy let down of pre-prepared, overly macerated shredded vegetables with flabby, unappealing slices of cheap brisket meat instead of the usual chewy matchsticks of beef. The spring rolls were very good but with just 2 per serving, the portion was a surprisingly meagre. We did wonder if this had something to do with the soft opening offer of 50% off; technically the discount should not have made the slight bit of difference and it was a shame that they scrimped on something so low cost.
The main courses were unfortunately an even greater disappointment; Mekong catfish in a sweet, rich sauce with notes of hoi-sin was an unusual pairing. The catfish was overcooked somewhat and flabby in texture, akin to that of black cod. Not a winning dish for me but I had high hopes for my choice of soft shell crab and tamarind curry. All I can say is what a complete an utter disappointment. A small bowl of brown, unappetising sludge was placed before us, with deep pools of oil and underneath lay one anorexic soft shell crab hiding underneath a mass of brown gloop. We divided the tiny little crab (which at £11.50 was a total rip-off) and as soon as I bit into it, I had to contend with bits that needed to be spat out. There was, in actual fact, very little that was ‘soft’ about the shell of this crab. Every mouthful required a seperation of shell/legs from soft white meat. The sauce had no obvious tamarind flavour and instead was an oily, unpleasant, heavily-spiced mess. To make matters worse, we we served these bizarre looking limp, stale rice lumps shaped into little cigars, which were cold and to be honest, I have absolutely NO IDEA what part they played in this whole ordeal.
Needless to say, dessert wasn't on the cards and to be fair, we both felt quite sick. Not the usual feeling I would associate with a lovely meal at a Vietnamese restaurant… and the next day? Our sickness showed no signs of holding back and gave us our money's worth for the better part of a whole day. The words NEVER GOING BACK spring to mind when I think of Cay Tre. I find it hilarious that so many people have been raving about how great it is, when the 2 other tables we spoke to that evening, echoed our sentiments in their entirety. All I can say is thank god we paid just 50% of the overal price, because that was most definitely all it was worth.
Mien Tay is still the BEST food, value and Vietnamese eatery in town and I believe AA Gill wholeheartedly agrees with me!
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