Originally posted 5th May 2012
I guess in hindsight drinking Guinness with a Vietnamese Clay Pot Curry was never going to end well. Today, I have a banging hangover. It’s like my head is trying to grow another head.
Anyway, I am in the process of organising a ‘Cultural Appreciation Day’ at work, and so to assist in my preparations for this project, on Friday night we took off to a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant in Shoreditch.
Who am I kidding- it was nothing to do with preparations, it was a friend’s birthday meal. But what a meal it was. I now feel slightly more inspired and empowered to celebrate Cultural Appreciation at work!
Mien Tay is one of those ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ kind of places, mainly because the restaurant – located just around the corner of Hoxton Overground station – looks like a dump. It’s a BYOB operation. Although this may stir up assumptions of dodginess and raise questions such as “Will I get Norovirus here?” I have never, ever had a bad night at a BYOB restaurant. My weapons of choice at Mien Tay were Guinness and John Smiths.
Anyway, the food! Mien Tay pretty much covers all bases and all tastes. We elected for a selection of starters including fried squid, Vietnamese pancakes and spring rolls. They were all great, but I was saving myself for the mains; growing lad and all that jazz.
Most main dishes are noodle-based or require a side of rice; as mentioned, everything is covered; from chicken to beef, through to more ‘acquired’ tastes such as eel and frog. I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous after a horrific day at the office so opted for one of their specials, a clay pot chicken curry. It was gorgeous, offering a fierce chilli heat and a rich ginger flavour, substantiated with the finest egg-fried rice I have ever had anywhere in London.
Of course, every wonderful taste was swiftly negated by swathes of slightly warm Guinness…
The place is cheapo as chipso (there were seven of us and the bill came to about £80), but I truly was blown away by the service. Not the best English in the world, but our waiter was unflinchingly friendly and keen to show interest and follow up with our food; I had confessed to him before that I was a Vietnamese food virgin.
All in all, very well recommended! Just take something with you to drink that is a little less Irish…
Following Mien Tay the party moved to the Strongroom bar just down the road in Shoreditch. All in all it was a great night and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends, old and new.
…I would like to nominate Strongroom as one of the worst places to drink in the whole of London. I won’t link the bar’s website as I don’t want to encourage anyone to go there.
Firstly, how a bustling, trendy bar in East London can run out of all draught beers is beyond me.
Secondly, the bar staff were painfully slow. There were six of them behind the bar and it still took about 20 minutes to get served. Usually, waiting at a bar really doesn’t bother me- I mean, what can you do? But there is slow and then there is Strongroom Slow. The problem seemed to be one them going for a break, and needing the other five tossers to find her cigarette lighter. Honestly.
As I said, it takes a lot for me to dislike a bar, but the Strongroom seems to fail with the very fundamentals of bar operations. Perhaps they should go the way of Mien Tay: BYOB.