We all know London is a very multicultural place, filled with juxtapositions and contrasts. One minute you can be walking past mediaeval architecture, the next, you can be eating Banh Mi at a charm in little eatery on Eastcheap.
What of this little eatery? The Viet Cafe is one of these cafés quiet enough at lunchtime to be alone with your thoughts, yet the food is just sublime to be a treat on a Friday afternoon.
The Banh Mi is one of those delightful juxtapositions if French baguette and Lemongrass Honey Chicken or Hanoi Beef Stew collided in Saigon, but suited London to the ground.
The Hanoi Beef stew I had had that tender melt in the mouth texture that any chef give his soul for, soft enough to act as a foil to the crunch of the baguette that colonised the country like the tastes colonise my tongue.
The herbs really add that touch that is both Gallic and nothing like you imagine Vietnamese cooking to be like. It really takes what we imagine to be familiar, such as the baguette, and turns it into something else entirely.
Think of the way Chicken Tikka Massala has taken an Indian dish and made it into something straight out of Birmingham by adding gravy. Okay, the stew in the baguette was served without the gravy, but you could really tell how they have slowly cooked it to a very high standard. While not chewy, it really goes down easily, especially on a cold day. While not out and out spicy, you could tell this had the juxtaposition that suited London.
Namely, the mix of Gallic and Vietnamese influences that really shows what is possible. Another juxtaposition is its unique selling point, aside from the healthy based on original recipes, it is an oasis of relative calm in the financial district of the city.
While it doesn't put on the 'theatre of food' that some Japanese eateries sometimes do, you can be assured that you can really think of what to do next, especially when you hear business deals being negotiated within earshot. This makes it ideal for getting gossip about the next Bill Gates or who lost a deal, away from the hurly burly of City life.