London is ever-growing, ever-evolving, ever-changing - so is its food scene. All foodies know the specific areas to go when in search for something scrumptious.
For fine dining experience you go to Mayfair and Knightsbridge, for the easy going small venues that buzz with energy and shock the taste buds with the creative combinations of super trendy flavors you hit Soho. For edgy interiors that serve awesome and hip plates you fly east… And for things that are just good, understated, genuine and won’t kill your wallet you cross the river and explore the south. For quite a long time south was showing off with Borough market and that was it. Recently that has changed. Brixton has put it stamp on the foodie map with its vibrant market, edgy container park ‘POP and the loud Village. Since Peckham has calmed down and now you can see more of art students than criminals on its streets, the low key amazing gourmet food venues started popping out there like fresh mushrooms after autumn rains. It’s become so intriguing that even Fay Maschler moved her Royal Epicureness in this direction. She has recently praised one of the small restaurants serving authentic Vietnamese. There is no lack of viet food around London - what made her fall for this one? Bahn Bahn is humble, unpretentious and genuine - run by five siblings who decided to bring the authentic recipes of their grandmother to London. They focus on the more and more popular street food - something Vietnam is most famous for.
Banh Banh is located a short walk down from the well known Rye Lane, towards the Peckham Rye Park. The design is modern and simple, with the bricked walls, industrial bulbs and simple wooden chairs and tables. The menu is short but very strong - you will find all the things you knew came from Vietnamese street stalls and few you have never heard off. They do have a nice cocktail selection, decent wine list, and a strong craft beer choice. I have ordered an alcohol free grapefruit tonic and it was great! I can rarely say this about a mocktail, but this drink was refreshing and had a perfect balance of bitterness, sweetness and acid with quite few surprising unveiling flavors such as elderflower. To start we went for the home made black sesame crackers, chicken wings and beef rolls. I was expecting the crackers to be black, this is such a trendy color in hip foods nowadays! They came off-white with black speckles of the sesame seeds. Slightly harder thank regular prawn crackers they crunched pleasantly when bitten on. The black sesame flavor was subtle yet pronounced. Chicken wings were perfectly sticky - slightly sweet but not spicy enough for our taste. The barbecue rolls however were just perfect! The mince portions had a great smokey flavor, the betel leaves were perfectly blanched and the vermicelli pressed in a thin sheet of tangled noodles that was surprisingly easy to wrap around the rolls. All went into a delicious sauce!
For the mains, my husband Jerome went for Pho - he is now a kind of a Pho expert, and he loved this one. Very meaty yet delicate, herbaceous yet simple, and definitely poured in a bowl big enough to fill his bottomless stomach. The only complaint he had was not enough fresh chillies or chilli sauce served alongside. And in all fairness - although I don’t always agree with my dragon of a husband, whose mouth roars fire flames after every meal, this time I have to admit - the siblings play it a bit safe when it comes to heat. Is it they perceive our European palette to be really so fragile? Finally my main was a small bow of jasmine rice with crunchy onions - can’t fault this, and a bowl of Bo Kho Stew. Menu describes this dish as light stew of a dry aged beef slowly cooked with lemongrass and carrots. And although I couldn’t really feel that much of lemongrass there, I have to say I was impressed with how one can make a slow cooked, thick beef stew tasting so light and velvety. The beef was so soft it was falling apart between the chopsticks, the sauce of a beautiful cashmere texture and the flavours nicely balance with a hint of sweetness going through it.
I would only want a bit more spice though.