Food and the city..the hags are here to eat and then tell you about it!

Saturday, April 23, 2005


65 Kingsland Road,
London E2 8DP
Tel: 020 7729 7223

Tay Do Cafe menu

Since the Man's return from Dubai (he was away for about 3 weeks on a work jaunt), he's has all sorts of food cravings. So this week its been for some decent Vietnamese food. The Man, like HRH, has a penchant for Pho Bo - the famous Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup, the defining dish which is used to bench mark Vietnamese restaurants. The target of the night was Tay Do Cafe in Shoreditch.

We arrived around 9pm and to our surprise, the place was completely buzzing. It was definitely a sight - this smoky, greasy spoon-esque joint with only 2 waiters zipping from table to table - either clearing plates or taking orders. After standing at the door way and looking hopefully at the waiters, we managed to secure a miniscule table by the door and were given a couple of menus. Prices here are quite reasonable - starters range from about £3-£6 and mains start from £4 and the average is about £6 per mains.

Whilst sitting at the table, the combination of our percolating gastric juices, the smoky atmosphere and delicious smells from the kitchen had whipped up my appetite to a frenzy. Being giddy with hunger, we didn't really take too much time looking at the menu. Once my eyes clapped on an item that sounded appealing, that was it. The Man was in a quandary - should he try something new or once again go for the Pho Bo..and like HRH, the Pho won out. Our final tally included fresh summer rolls with deep fried prawns and grilled lamb cutlets for starters. For mains, I opted for noodles with tofu. I'm not a vegetarian but tonight I wasn't feeling up to much meat. The menu has some vegetarian options but it’s quite limited.

It was then we had time to sit back and take in our surroundings. By no means was this place uninviting, but its definitely one of those places which tries to squeeze as many tables together to fit the most number of people in. There were several long tables which were shared but this definitely just adds to the buzzy atmosphere. However, because everyone is squeezed into this place like a tin of sardines, be warned - don't wear your Sunday best. It will stink to high heaven of smoke and food for days. At one point the restaurant got so smoky that it looked like we were sitting in a bit of a fog - so if you don't enjoy having eau de cigarette smoke with your meal, this is probably a place to avoid. But nevertheless, it seems to be a local favourite – along Kingland road itself, there were several similar Vietnamese restaurants/café places still open but this was on the only place which was completely full and still attracting quite a number of customers at around 10pm on a Tuesday night.

Our starters came surprisingly quick - well the summer rolls did anyways. Normally, summer rolls come with fresh lettuce, vermicelli noodles and a meat filling of some kind wrapped in a rice paper roll. What we got was a rice paper roll of cooked turnip with shredded prawns - definitely not expected and not really to my taste. It wasn't horrible but I guess the description/tranlation on the menu probably didn't come across too well. Never mind - next time we'll stick to the tried and true.

Our mains came within minutes of the first starter - a steaming bowl of beef noodles (HUGE!) and my stir fried tofu with noodles (HUGE serve!). Both were welcomed as the summer rolls had whetted the appetite and we were rearing to go.

Pho Bo

The Pho was good but isn't as good as what the Man remembered but nevertheless, its definitely fed the cravings. I think that its time to visit Cafe East again for good Pho.

Tofu vermicelli

My tofu noodles went down a treat - stir fried noodles topped a bowl of rice vermicelli and shredded lettuce and cucumber. This dish is more like a salad as its served with a side of Vietnamese dressing and was absolutely yummy. Yes, tonight once the food came, the pleasantries disappeared. Don't expect conversation for the first 5 minutes - we're trying to stuff our gob dammit! Our grilled lamb cutlets came just after we started on our mains and it was a pleasant break - time to start breathing properly and talk again. The lamb was delicious - tender and very well seasoned.

Grilled lamb cutlets

At the end of the night, the damage was £30 for two very satisfied customers. With generous portions at a very reasonable price, quick service (definitely no languishing around for a romantic evening - you'll have the people in queue giving you cold, meaningful glares), its definitely a place to return.


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Anonymous Pho Police said...

Hey, is Tay Do Cafe the place that serves that pork roll (where u brought us (viv and joe)) to when we're in uk?

we had our week intake satday, and subi still holds the cake

4:47 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It wasn't £ was only £20!

1:14 pm

Blogger Culinary Hag said...

No, unfortunately we found this place after you guys visited! But still, its not the same as Viet Hoa.

3:14 pm

Anonymous Gordon Fong said...

When I went it was during one of the hottest days of summer 2005 and it was swealtering. However, it this probably gave it an even more authentic feel seeing as Hanoi city probably rates the same in terms of heat and humidity.

I enjoyed the place, even if I had to constantly fan myself with the menu. The waiter had to prise it away from my hands to give it to another customer, who then promptly kept it to fan himself!

Afterwards, we walked up and down the same street and saw other Vietnamese restaurants open but none of them were anywhere near as busy as this one.

Well recommended, but yes I agree with you about not wearing your Sunday best.

2:29 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would just like to say: Try the "Stewed Pork". Despite the rather unappetising name, it is to die for. I have been to this restaurant at least 10 times and everytime I go the Stewed Pork and something new...

4:59 pm


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