Visiting one of London's Vietnamese restaurants is always good, I just wasn't expecting it to be THIS good.
Vietnamese food focuses on 5 fundamentals. Metal, Wood, Fire, Water and Earth. Respectively these are said to be represented by spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet. However they miss out a massive and important part of the culinary experience, and that's the ambience, the mood of the place you eat the food.
Mien Tay brings this 6th and ever-so important feeling to their busy and bustling dining experience: It's not showy, pretentious or over the top, you feel like you've walked into the most down to earth joint in London - in fact from the outside it looks like just another crappy take-away; but with stark contrast inside, the food being served is authentic and out-of-this-world fabulous.
Inside, tables are adorned with in-built Vietnamese scenes. Pretty! (even with added heart shaped post-it notes)
Vietnamese food always tends to go slightly overboard with the flavour, but that's more because of our western palates rather than an error on their part. House of Ho can over-pack a punch and MOC Kitchen mainly concentrates on the herbs, but Mien Tay seems to have hit a happy medium very well indeed.
Salt and pepper chilli squid is a well loved favourite across the UK, and here it's done fresh and is crisp and soft. Very light frying oil makes me think they reserve a fryer just for these, and its a nice touch.
In the past six years Vietnamese food has skyrocketed in popularity and as the first ever Vietnamese restaurant to feature in The Evening Standard, Metro and Time Out London Mien Tay can certainly hold claim to widening interest to their country’s cuisine. They've served approximately a quarter of a million customers since opening, have received certifications from Parliament, hosted dignitaries, is a popular “night off” spot for local chefs, industry figureheads, food writers and celebrities and it’s unusual not to see a queue snaking down Lavender Hill from this humble and honest family-run restaurant.
Quail - not something I'd have guessed to see but it's been a mainstay of their menu for years now. Very popular indeed and I can see why. Served with salt, pepper and fresh lime dip, surprisingly I was told off by the attentive staff for putting the lime directly on the quail - quick Vietnamese lesson later and I'm dipping happily. Those 5 flavour combos hit home with pleasurable ease. Expect to get your hands stuck in, quails are small and you're gonna want to strip it clean. Yum.
Their address says Battersea, but to be honest if you're travelling to find them head to Clapham Junction instead, it's very close by. We drove, and found ample parking nearby - most area parking rules end after 6:30pm.
If you weren't aware already, Vietnamese food is stack full of herbs. Here, gorgeous beef wrapped in DIY lettuce, mint, coriander and more makes the chop-stick adept look even more skilful, and everyone else making do with fingers. Great fun, great taste and good to have a sharing dish.
Over the past six years patrons to Mien Tay Battersea have contributed to charity causes in Vietnam because a large proportion of their profits are channelled directly into their native country. Co-owner (and wife of Mr Su Tran) Mrs My Le has led assistance to children in poverty providing clothing, toys and school equipment, in poor villages they have built roads, bridges and financed maintenance to increase accessibility and they have also given direct financial aid to those suffering extreme conditions.
Pho, Phar, Phoo, Phae, Fough. However you pronounce it, the popularity of Phở is plain to see - and this one was lovely. Again a dish packed with herbs, and you can add your own too. Everyone likes to get stuck in being herb-chef and my wife is no exception. Big smiles. You're onto a winner here Mien Tay.
The new menu items are: Deep fried Monkfish with Salt, Pepper and Garlic, Whole Grilled Semi-Dried Squid with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce (starters), Kohlrabi Salad with Squid, Pomelo Salad with Chicken and Prawn (salads), Whole Grilled Poussin with Honey and Herbs, Stewed Snakehead Fish (main courses)
Galangal Goat. I just sat there smiling - thank you so much David and Kristen for recommending it. I am made up and now won't accept anything less than this beauty. So if you dear reader visit this restaurant and don't have this dish, you're quite simply - wrong.
6 bestsellers from Past 6 years: Fresh Rolls with Prawn, Vietnamese Chicken Clay-Pot Curry, Crispy Squid with Garlic, Chicken with Honey and Spices, Goat with Galangal, Quail with Honey and Spices.
Fresh orange for dessert - finished off a fabulous meal of flavour, interest, fun and a great date night trip.
For more info check their website, and head over there soon for the new exciting menu, you might just catch me there too - what a new London favourite!.