Authentic Vietnamese cuisine is easy to find in the capital these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Go back a few years and you could take your pick of Chinese and Thai restaurants in London, but if it was Vietnamese food you were after, it was a different story. Thankfully, there’s now a glut of restaurants serving up Vietnamese favourites, including pho, banh mi and noodles in London, so wherever you are, you can get your fix of this distinctive and flavourful cuisine.
For the uninitiated, Vietnamese cuisine is bursting with flavour, but without that intense heat you get in other types of Southeast Asian cooking. Instead, dishes tend to be fragrant, thanks to a careful blend of four of the basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and umami, created by using ingredients such as lemongrass, fish sauce, tamarind and chillies.
Most will have heard of pho – a rice noodle soup, a bit like a less-rich version of a Japanese ramen – and banh mi has enjoyed a certain vogue too, but there’s so much more to Vietnamese food than these two dishes. To help you discover the full range of this wonderful cuisine, we’ve rounded up our favourite Vietnamese restaurants in London. Some are well-known, while others are a bit more off the beaten track, but one thing they all have in common is their reputation for top-notch Vietnamese food.
Why: There are several reasons both the Old Street and Soho branches of Cây Tre are always packed, the most important of which is the quality of the food. Each dish, from the restaurant’s signature pho to its ever-popular ‘piggy grilled aubergine’, is cooked to perfection and presented beautifully. It’s no surprise that the flavours here are authentic though, since Cây Tre was one of the first Vietnamese restaurants in London. Service is stealthy at both outposts, so whether you’re popping for a quick lunch with colleagues in Hoxton, or grabbing a bite before a show in Soho, you can expect top-notch fast food.
Where: Soho + Old Street
Why: Top billing at this set of sleek Vietnamese eateries in central and east London goes to the choice of banh mi – those moreish Vietnamese ‘baguettes’ with fillings ranging from BBQ pork to smoky aubergine, roast duck and Keu’s meaty ‘original’, which is made up of mortadella, pork ‘floss’, chicken liver pâté, spiced pork belly and ham terrine. Noodle dishes also get top marks for authenticity, since they’re filled with hand-pulled noodles flown in from Saigon weekly.
Where: Soho, Moorgate + Shoreditch
Why: This laidback Vietnamese kitchen serves up reliably delicious Vietnamese pho, sharing plates and a selection of grill dishes cooked to order on its flaming josper grill. Definitely one of the more stylish restaurants along Kingsland Road’s Pho Mile, Viet Grill sports trendy interiors that are instantly welcoming. Don’t miss the BBQ honey coated ribs and plump summer rolls.
Where: Viet Grill, 58 Kingsland Road, Hoxton
Pho & Bun
Why: Rich beef bone broths and steamed bun burgers are this West End restaurant’s raison d'être, and boy does it do them well. The, pho which almost overflows with tofu, chicken, steak or BBQ pork, is superb value, as are the summer rolls packed with fat king prawns. Speaking of tightly-wrapped fish, the layout of Pho & Bun means diners are at risk of feeling like sardines during busy periods, but if you’re happy eating elbow to elbow with randomers, you’ll be just fine.
Where: Pho & Bun, 76 Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho
Why: Probably the best-known Vietnamese restaurant London possesses, Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) has enjoyed wild success with its simple one-dish concept. Since opening in 2005, Pho has branched out with its offering as much as it has with its sites (which can now be found in a number of cities outside London), so you’ll find plenty of dishes besides the signature noodle soup on the menu these days, but you’d be mad to pass over it. There’s plenty for vegan customers here, prices are competitive and if you’re in a hurry, you can get pho to go.
Where: Various locations
The House of Ho
Why: This smart outfit from ex-Gilgamesh chef/director Ian Pengelley is rather more broad than others on this list, since its menu takes inspiration from the whole of East Asia’s rich culinary history. You’ll still find Vietnamese classics, including pho, summer rolls and mango, prawn and papaya salad, but also things like a ‘Vietnamese Scotch egg’, lemongrass chicken and a Vietnamese green curry. Mix these up with the likes of sushi, sashimi and dumplings for a Pan-Asian feast.
Where: The House of Ho, 1 Percy Street, Fitzrovia
Why: Scandi-chic interiors and top-notch Vietnamese cooking might not seem a likely pairing, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Mam in Notting Hill. Fresh greenery, pale wood and shades of grey give the restaurant a serene feel to the point where it almost feels uncouth to tuck into juicy skewered meats, spicy dumplings and steaming bowls of pho. You should do just that though, as these are the restaurant’s specialities.
Where: Mam, 16 All Saints Road, Notting Hill
Why: Forget the rustic cafés of Shoreditch’s ‘Pho Mile’ – Chiswick’s local gem has a sophisticated, amiable vibe, created by dark wood, bamboo and traditional carvings. The food is a pleasing mix of traditional and modern too, with the likes of steamed rice rolls and vermicelli bowls available alongside various versions of noodle soup and steamboat meals.
Where: Saigon Saigon, 313-317 King Street, Hammersmith
Why: Super-stylish, with welcoming staff and wallet-friendly prices, this Vietnamese canteen in Peckham is a winner among locals. The menu offers ‘smallish’, ‘biggish’ and ‘classic’ dishes, meaning you can either opt for starters and mains, or share everything as a family-style feast. Its larger Brixton sibling is a hit too, particularly since it can accommodate group bookings. Don’t miss Bành Bành’s weekend brunch (Brixton only), in particular its spiked iced coffee.
Where: Brixton + Peckham
Why: Damon Bui – the mastermind behind Vietnamese supper club Table for 10 – opened his first restaurant, CôBa, in Islington in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. The restaurant itself is a beautiful, airy space decorated in neutral tones and sporting plenty of triangular elements that represent the chef’s three nationalities: Vietnamese, Australian and British. Everything on the menu is tasty, but the duck ramen in particular is incredible. Dishes are a little pricey, but the value is good overall and the quality undeniable.
Where: CôBa, 244 York Way, King’s Cross
The Little Viet Kitchen
Why: Calming white-washed wooden tables and soft lighting make this Vietnamese restaurant in Islington a lovely little spot for lunch and dinner on the slow. Luxuriate in a bowl of warming soup, or else share small plates such as soft-shell tempura crab, and butterfly-style tiger prawns drizzled with a lemongrass soy sauce. Drinks served in copper jars and the sale of homemade marinades and sauces adds to this neighbourhood site’s local charm.
Where: The Little Viet Kitchen, 2 Chapel Market, Angel
Why: If you can bear the slightly gnarly location, you’re in for a treat at this inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant. Fresh, flavourful and plenty of bang for your buck, the menu at Café East spans 30 dishes including favourites such as pork spring rolls, pho loaded with slices of rare beef and flat rice noodles, and spicy Vietnamese chicken curry. Café East doesn’t serve alcohol, but there are plenty of soft drinks available.
Where: Café East, 100 Redriff Road, Surrey Quays Leisure Park
Banh Mi Bay
Why: Packed full of raw salad and herbs, the eponymous banh mi available at this small outfit in St Paul’s is as healthy as it is flavoursome. There are hot and cold fillings to choose from, along with a range of main dishes that include pho, bun vermicelli noodle salads and rice plates. Locations in Holborn and Fitzrovia are handy for hungry office workers looking for a sandwich with a little more bite.
Where: Banh Mi Bay, 33 Cannon Street, St Paul's
Why: Well suited to quick dinners with friends or casual date nights, Viet Eat is the buzzy sibling of Soho’s Pho & Bun. Its Holborn location is handy for tasty pre-theatre dining, and its set lunch and dinner prices are a steal for the area. Standout dishes include crispy pork and crab rolls dipped in fish sauce, and pho tran - a dry version of pho mixed with BBQ honey pork, roast pork and corn-fed chicken, served with lettuce, fresh herbs and peanuts.
Where: Viet Eat, 48 Kingsway, Holborn
Why: A proud resident of Kingsland Road’s Pho Mile, Mien Tay is well-known for its first-rate south-western Vietnamese food. So popular is this traditional Vietnamese restaurant that it had to expand into the building next door at its original site before opening a second site in Lavender Hill. Must-tries include the salt, pepper and garlic squid, and the honey and spice char-grilled chicken. Feeling brave? Try the stir-fried frog's leg or eel.
Where: Lavender Hill + Hoxton
Why: Cheery interiors and smiley staff are a fitting precursor to the taste bud- and wallet-friendly dishes on offer at this lunchtime-only café in the City. French-inspired bánh mì baguettes are the stars of the menu, but street food along the lines of spicy lemongrass noodle soup, classic pho, and summer rolls are excellent too. You might have to queue here at prime lunchtime, but it’s worth it.
Where: City Caphe, 17 Ironmonger Lane, Bank
Why: Unless you live or work around London Fields, it’s unlikely you’ll have come across this family-run gem of a restaurant before – which is how the locals would like to keep it. Unlike most Vietnamese restaurants in London, this outfit focusses on the country’s other mainstays, including stir-fries, spicy salads and slow-braised dishes. Prices haven’t changed much in almost 20 years, meaning you can over-order and still pay less than you would somewhere more central.
Where: Green Papaya, 191 Mare Street, London Fields
Has all that talk of spicy broths and noodles got your stomach rumbling? Check out our guide to the best ramen restaurants in London