Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eat Vietnamese: Cafe East, Surrey Quays

Cafe East

Surrey Quays is home to all sorts of weirdness. It has an assortment of pubs ranging from the trendy to the derelict. It is home to probably the worst shopping centre in London (saved only by a massive Tesco's which never actually has anything you want), Europe's only fully digital cinema and a rather large bowling alley. Oh yes, entertainment central.

What I have also found out recently, is that it appears to be home to a rather vibrant Vietnamese community. There are a few Vietnamese restaurants dotted around, and the one I seem to hear about the most is Cafe East. Now I come to Surrey Quays quite a lot to visit the quite excellent cinema and was totally unaware to its existence. So last week after watching the pretty amusing film, "The Hangover", sister no 1 and I went in search of this gem in Surrey Quays' crown.

Inside @ Cafe East

We actually found it at the bottom of the massive car park outside the cinema and bowling alley. We even headed back out to the main road only to nearly miss it and loop back upon ourselves. Once we got there, we discovered that it was full to brimming with Vietnamese people, a sure fire way to guarantee the authenticity of the place. After a short wait, we were shown to our tables.

Che Ba Mau and Cafe Ba @ Cafe East

First, I wanted to sample some of their drinks, my sister going for the iced coffee whilst I went for Che Ba Mau (an interesting symphony of colours in a glass). The coffee was strong and refreshing and although mine was slightly erring on being a dessert, packed to brim with sugared kidney beans, it was very refreshing, just what the doctor ordered on a hot day.

Starter: Banh Cuon

Banh Cuon @ Cafe East

We wondered if we should go for the summer rolls (everyone goes for the summer rolls!) and it certainly felt like summer but opted for the banh cuon instead. And what a dish. These are essentially rice noodles stuffed with mince meat, accompanied by a sausage of sorts and topped with bean sprouts and fried onions. All this and a spicy fish sauce based dipping sauce to boot. Light and refreshing, a cacophony of flavours synonymous with Vietnamese food.

Main: Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue @ Cafe East

Beef brisket in a spicy soup with vermicelli noodles. Cant really say too much about the flavour of the beef but the broth that it came in was amazing. First you got the flavours of the deep beefy broth, then the lemongrass starts tingling your taste buds, all rounded off by a quick hit of heat. It was like a multi layered gobstopper in broth form! Not what I would have chosen, considering how warm and humid it was, but pretty good nonetheless.

Main: Bun Ga Nuong

Bun Ga Nuong @ Cafe East

Essentially a crispy chicken salad. The chicken was seriously tasty. Not sure how they packed it with so much flavour but the skin was crisp and the chicken moist. This came with a mountain of salad and vermicelli noodles doused in fish sauce, a decent accompaniment but frankly, there was way too much of it. By the time the chicken had gone, I still had over half the salad left!

I guess the Vietnamese don't do dainty, but Cafe East serves great food in great volume at great value. People often mock me for living in South London, but when you get gems like this on your doorstep, it makes you proud to be a saarf Londoner.

Cafe East, 100 Redriff Road, SE16 7LH

Cafe East on Urbanspoon


Helen said...

I absolutely loved Cafe East. I've not been back since but it is high on the list as I live so close. I have to say, the summer rolls are very good too!

catty said...

i SO need to go there! Was recommended by LondonEater but still haven't been. It feel so far away but I'm so it's worth it!