Two of my most favourite Asians <3 <3 <3
City Caphe on Ironmonger Lane seems just another Vietnamese takeaway shop, and I was once fooled by its recyclable crockery and a menu typical to any Vietnamese joint in London. After many visits, however, I began to feel this little paired-down shop IS the best Vietnamese food outlet in London. The proprietor Julie and her family run this small business with heart and soul. This, as you will see when at the shop, has earned them strings of very loyal lunch-crowd followers (in other words – possibly one of the longest and fastest-turning queues in London).
City Caphe is opened only during the week, roughly from 11am until 4pm. (Many items are sold out before 3pm). The menu is simple but not short. There are Pho, Bun Hue, Cuon, Bahn Mi, Spring Rolls and a superbly authentic and highly sugared Vietnamese Iced Coffee. All (apart from the coffee) come with a variety of stocks and toppings. The flavouring is well-judged and thoughtfully modified in ways that the recipes do not depart from authenticity. The portion is substantial and the price never goes above £6.50. Summer Roll (£3.75) – tightly packed with springy prawns, tender simmered pork and fresh herbs – was refreshing and delivered exactly what you’d expect from a proper summer roll. The sweet peanut-based sauce added velvety richness. Bahn Mi is freshly prepared and instantly assembled per orders. My Classic Pork Bahn Mi (£3.95) was tightly packed with multi-textured Vietnamese sausage slices and sweet pickles. City Caphe doesn’t bake baguette on the premise but has it tailored specially for them. Beef Bun Hue (£6.50) was consistently feisty. The good quality beef slices were perfectly poached. The Bun noodle was slurpy-licious. The intense beef stock went down a storm with the garlicky, spicy pungent-ness of chilli oil. An additional herb bag containing basil, chilli and lime wedge was a generous touch showing the kitchen does their best not to strip away authenticity. (The chicken version was very good, too).
Forward to Hackney!!
East London is *in* and I have come across a handful of fun-filled places worth travelling for. (More posts for East London to come). One of these is Sho Foo Doh by Fumio Tanga, which was first set up as an okonomiyaki stall at Chatsworth Road Market on Sundays. Very quickly SFD became the words of mouth and Fumio is now a frequent lodger at nearby Pacific Social Club doing what he does very well – flipping Japanese pancakes!!
Born in Hiroshima (where okonomiyaki is the stable of life), Fumio moved to the UK a decade ago and has become pretty Hackneyed. He fuses, at Pacific Social Club (a cafe that might be described as a run-down space of polychromatic hipness and great vinyls), a nostalgic taste of home with a carefree spirit of East London. The specialities are, of course, booze and Japanese pancakes, but there’s a catch. Japanese pancakes that people outside Japan know are the popularised Osaka-style (a kind of fluffy mixed-meat, cabbage-y patty). For SFD, Fumio alternates this Osaka style with a Hiroshima counterpart. The latter is more layered than mixed, with sautéed noodle forming the base and a thin sheet of pancake to cover it all up.
At Pacific Social Club, Fumio is manning the hot plate in the evening from Thursday to Saturday. The menu changes according to his mood. The price for small plates hover between £3 and £6. The flat rate for an okonomiyaki is £8 but the price goes up depending on how many toppings (50p – £2) you would like to add. Chilled Aubergine (£3) was revitalising. The cooked aubergine chunks were left to marinate and sponge up the clear gingery dashi broth. My Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki was..errr… HUGE!! The pork belly mingled well with the springy squid. The noodle was mildly tossed and cooked in Fumio’s “secret” sauce. The shredded cabbage was layered and perfectly steamed between the noodle and the pleasantly chewy pancake sheet (on top). The generous sprinkling of chopped spring onions not only contributed zing but helped refresh the palate. I also had another one of sweet corn and cheddar cheese concoction which was equally utterly soulful and joyous.
Do note there are a few guest appearances at Pacific Social Club, including Bao London.
SFD RATING 3.5/5
SHO FOO DOH @ PACIFIC SOCIAL CLUB
8 Clarence Road
CC RATING 4/5
17 Ironmonger Lane