We’ve been going to Vu Viet since it was Namo’s, and owned by parents at the local school. Back then, it was the highlight of the tap end of the village, tucked away to the right of the roundabout we once overlooked from our flat at the heart of the rapidly gentrifying Lauriston Road. Namos was a regular Friday night sanctuary after the stresses and strains of a week – or a takeout option when we were feeling too lazy to go out or cook – although we always felt the food didn’t travel well. It’s always been a local favourite with the tigers for its crowd-pleasing Vietnamese style kids’ meals – homemade lemonade, sticky rice and chicken satay or rice pancakes, and coconut ice cream or mango sorbet.
Recently switching hands, but remaining in the same family, the restaurant changed its name to Vu Viet – and in keeping with the upward mobility of the now stylish Victoria Park Road, was given a light facelift outside, although the colourful mural, painted in time for the 2012 Olympics, and which signalled the last finishing touches to a street going up in the world, amid several boutiques opening and demise of the last genuinely local boozer, which turned into wine bar last year, remains the same.
Inside, dark wood, silken walls and simple decor give the place an airy oriental feel, while a covered garden means the place never feels cramped, however many school kids are eating with their parents before swapping tables to catch up with their friends – and in the summer you can dine more or less al fresco. Frequented by local families and young couples eyeing up the soaring property prices, little else has changed since we first went years ago. Since changing hands, the menu has been simplified, keeping its delicious selection of starters -herbed summer rolls with prawn, crispy squid, soft shell crab, as well as typical westernised South East Asian fare, like sticky ribs and spring rolls, but done to perfection and presented beautifully.
One or two favourites, such as the delicious banana leaf monkfish, has disappeared from the menu – but as a local, a quick word with the friendly proprietor can see old dishes swiftly resurrected. This is relaxed, local dining at its very best – special enough for a family Saturday night outing or a midweek meal a deux – although the chance would be a fine thing. Like many a time before, on this visit, we met up with Reprobate Kate and her daughter Lola for a Saturday night feast, and as always we were not disappointed.
After a starter each and a plate of ribs for the kids, who amused themselves making cats’ ears out of napkins, Kate and I shared the aforementioned monkfish as well as a chicken, chilli and lime dish with sticky rice, while Tom had something meaty, hot and noodly, which is pretty much standard eating practice for him in Asian restaurants.
We drank a bottle of house white between us (perfectly quaffable) and while the kids ate their chosen scoop of ice cream, we treated ourselves to cocktails. These were sublime and at £8 a pop for a decent sized glass, not bad value. Kate’s – a Lollipop – which had amaretto and pineapple, was the nicest, while my lychee and vodka based drink came a close second. Tom’s, with passionfruit, was decried by the kids as containing frogspawn – passionfruit seeds – and yet didn’t have the sour tang you’d expect, but nonetheless, all three rounded off an otherwise perfect Saturday night family meal – although having good company and few drinks no doubt helped.
In any case, it was a good notch up from our last experience of the Thai Room – another local South East Asian favourite, but which let itself down several weeks ago with poor service amid a flurry of takeout orders when we went on a Friday night after cubs and beavers on the Roman Road.
Three adults and three children had drinks, starters, mains and dessert/ cocktails for £135.
The 4 Hungry Tigers rated our meal *****