I was reading a book that my friend bought me for Christmas called, 'Where chefs eat' and there were only a handful of references to restaurants in London. The book recommends places from all over the world, and it turns out one of them was right on my south London doorstep. Strikes me as an opportunity too good to miss really, don't you think?
I'd walked past Mien Tay before and seen people arguing about having booked a table but not being able to get in. I could see why. For one thing, when I rang up to book, the guy didn't take my phone number, and for another, the place was absolutely packed. Plus, there was a queue of people waiting to pick up their take away orders. Mild chaos, but then, that many people suggests great food, right?
We sat at a table right near the door. I can't recommend strongly enough that you sit towards the back of the room as the door doesn't close well and I spent most of the meal with goosebumps, whilst the waiter ran to and from the door go close it. The service was a bit Fawtly Towers-esk with waiters, wearing silken uniforms, dashing about, sometimes attentive, sometimes not at all, pouring your drink but then bringing you the bill without you asking for it.
The food is authentic from the Mien Tay region in Vietnam (hence the name) and you can get yourself a bowl of 'pho' noodle soup(£6) or clay pot curry(£7). I had the chicken clay pot curry and the sauce was delicately flavoured with coconut and chilli. Chilli-phobes, don't be put off by the chilli sign by nearly every dish on the menu - I could hack the curry and I don't normally stray from tikka masala in an Indian restaurant. The vegetables in the curry added bite as they were fresh and crunchy. This is also not the place to take someone if they don't like peanuts but if you love them, then try the chicken satay.
The tables are worth a mention as they are glass topped and inside are tiny figurines made of wood, depicting scenes from Vietnam. I loved scooping my sticky rice (£2) and curry into a smaller bowl and chowing down with my chopsticks. I chose a bottle of Saigon beer (£3) to wash it down.
The meal came to an abrupt end as we were presented with the bill and an elaborately cut orange with toothpicks to eat it with. Personally, I liked the fruit touch, it wasn't added to the bill and it reminded me of the abundant fresh fruit in Vietnam. In a land were diary is scarce, fruit is as good as a cream cake when you fancy a sweet treat, not to mention better for you.
A great, authentic, delicious and cheap place to go. Our bill for two people including starters,