Friday 10 September 2010

Viet, Soho

Amid the chaotic clatter and chatter, waiters bump into tables and diners feast elbow to elbow on big bowls of steaming beef pho, fragrant noodles and colourful prawn salads. Best of all, it's BYO (including beer). Viet is not somewhere to go for a quiet meal.

It's been our favourite local Vietnamese for years. Admittedly, there's not much competition in Soho - or indeed, many places outside of East London. The small Pho chain has recently opened an outlet on Wardour St. But Viet is no polished operation. It's quick and dirty, cheap and cheerful, and feels like a little pocket of Kingsland Rd in Soho.

Soft summer rolls (goi cuon) come with prawns, herbs and salad almost bursting through the thin, translucent rice paper wrapping. Fried spring rolls are crisp, fresh and meaty. But best of all are the thin little parcels of juicy beef wrapped in betel leaf - a taste sensation.


Bun sa, cold vermicelli noodles with chicken cooked in lemongrass, with crispy lettuce, pickled vegetables, cucumber and mint were, on our last visit, somewhat lacking in flavour, and a little stingier on the chicken than usual. I have my suspicions that portion sizes are being sacrificed a little here to keep the costs so low. The noodles come with a side bowl of nuoc cham (fish sauce, zingy lime juice, garlic, chilli, sugar), essential for pouring over the mix.

Most people come for the pho, the comforting, spicy, noodley broth, which is slurped up hungrily, even as plates of starters and drinks arrive at their tables, apparently out of sinc. No one seems to mind. Extra fresh chilli and other bits are provided on request.

A personal favourite is the beef salad - slithers of beef with chilli, onion, lime, Vietnamese basil and smashed nuts. It's full of flavour, although the portion on my visit last week is (again) smaller than I remembered it.

Corkage is apparently charged on wine (about £3) but the bottle opener for our beers was unceremoniously plonked on our table last week and we drank without charge. This is one cheap night out. Starters are often around £2-4, and the average price for larger dishes is around £6-8.

Service is sometimes erratic, but never bad on my visits (I'm not expecting Michelin star service here), and the young guy who coordinates it all is smiling and helpful. He doesn't miss much when it comes to pointing out who needs what and when.

Viet's popularity means there are often queues on Friday and Saturday nights (some resort to cracking open their beers in the line), and you can't reserve ahead. So get there early, and tuck in.

Viet, 35 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 5DJ (Tel: 020 7494 9888). No website.

Viet on Urbanspoon


  1. Oooh must try, thanks for tip!

  2. Kavey - tell "Pete Drinks" Pete to load up on BYO beers and enjoy!

  3. Perhaps Greedy Diva is getting greedier ;) I've only been once so I can't comment on portion size, but I remember (hazily) that the banh xeo was excellent.

  4. Lizzie - Oh good God, that's probably it [hides head in shame...]

  5. I like this joint too! My bf and I are often there for a quick meal :)

  6. For other Viet options around Soho, there's a place I think is called Nam on Dean St and in Chinatown, there's a place called Cam Phat (next door to De Hems pub). I haven't been to either though.

    I've not been here in years, as there are so many noodle options (albeit not Vietnamese) in the area. Thx for the reminder!

  7. Oh I'm so incredibly hungry now after reading that post! Have promptly added Viet to The List. Friends want somewhere cheap to eat next week, was thinking along the lines of Pho or Koya but may have to try Viet now thanks!

  8. Catty - It's such a good easy option, isn't it?

    Mr Noodles - Yes, Nam is relatively new(ish) and I read some feedback on it that wasn't amazing but I haven't tried for myself. I know I can always rely on you for noodley options.

    Becca - This could be perfect, but I'm also a fan of Koya. Maybe see which one has the shortest queue....!

  9. Sounds like a Victoria street Melbourne type of place which is exactly my favourite type of Vietnamese!

  10. Gourmet Chick - yes, you've got it exactly.

  11. Absolute institution... used to eat there most nights when my company was producing a show at the Palace theatre, walk straight out of the stage door and you're there! Forgotten how good those beef in betel leaf bites are. I had some good ones the other day at Buddha Jazz in Camberwell, but you can't have too much of a good thing!


  12. Hi Rich - yep, it's an oldie but a goodie!

  13. Must try this next time I'm in London! Thanks for the tip :-)

  14. Mr Freelances Thoughts - hope you like.


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