Real Vietnamese food in East London
Song Que was recommended by an Instagram follower, who described the Pho as ‘Boom ting!’
I had to give this place a mention. We had a fleeting visit from an old friend last night and wanted to take him somewhere authentic, and try something new in East London before my move in two months (only down to South London but still!).
In a sea of fairly decent looking Vietnamese restaurants, the only thing that makes Song Que really stand out (apart from the tacky lime green front) is the fact that it was absolutely rammo – Vietnamese, Londoners, old, young, couples, catchups, families, predrinks. We felt at home straight away in this echoey, green canteen style joint, where the waiters are speedy and the prawn crackers are free (I mean, where can you find free prawn crackers anywhere anymore?)
The words ‘authentic’ ‘true’ and ‘famous’ are plastered over their menu so I don’t have to go into this. But all I can say is believe their glowing feedback because it’s all true.
Their menu does cater a little to ‘western’ tastes so you have to be careful and resist the temptation of duck pancakes and crispy seaweed. We avoided the old Cantonese takeaway dishes and instead focused on Song Que’s specialities (their signature dishes):
Prawn summer rolls – fresh Thai herbs, rice noodles and sweet whole prawns rolled up in thin, chewy rice paper. So clean tasting and refreshing, they kick the ass of heavy, deep fried spring rolls, which sit in your stomach. These came with a delicious garlic, peanut and soy dip that had a fantastic kick. One portion had only 2 rolls, so order plenty
Crispy pancakes with prawns – a nutty, wafer thin crispy corn and rice flour latticed pancake, folded over stir fried prawns, chives and beansprouts. These came with a big bunch of mint and nettles, which we forgot about until the pancake had been devoured and instead ate by dipping in the sweet dipping sauce
Pho – bowl full of noodle soup with topped with raw beef, herbs, beansprouts, lime and chilli (no two mouthfuls are the same so it’s incredibly morish). We weren’t brave enough for the tendon and tripe combo – this time I was afraid of spoiling my soup with the aroma of tripe wafting from the bowl- so we went for rare beef and chicken. Our side dish of accompaniments came with beansprouts, nettles, mint, Thai basil, lime and tiny slices of flaming hot red chilli that should come with a health and safety warning: handle with care!
Eating a bowl of Pho is like digging for treasure. On the surface of the broth, rich with the intense beef flavour and distant taste of star anise and spice, slivers of rare tender beef bob up and down to greet you. As you plunge through the layer of herbs and beansprouts, trails of rice noodle wrap around your spoon and disturb the darker, more intense beef stock that lies beneath. Song Que’s Pho provides the perfect balance of the 5 elements of Vietnamese cooking sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty.
Verdict: Visit for the fantastic real Vietnamese food, despite the decor.
£60 for 3 people (two hungry lads and a hungry lass), plus 3 drinks.