Restaurant - Vietnamese in London
134G Kingsland Road
Long Kee Cafe is a small Vietnamese restaurant serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant is unlicensed so customers are invited to bring their own drink.
I had my first Pho in what was then known as Saigon. But the Pho that left a profound effect on me was experienced at a hawker stall by the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok many moons ago. It was run by a septuagenarian Vietnamese man (bless him). During my four-day stay in Bangkok I'd nearly forgotten about Thai food as I went back to his stall for lunch everyday. His unbeatable beef stock is thus my reference for a perfect Pho. The authentic Vietnamese restaurant scene only appeared in London within fifteen years ago or so. And as we all know the proliferation of it all is centred around Hackney and its environs. I can now confidently declare that I've been to all the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road over the past few years. The best Pho to date in my humblest opinion is found at Loong Kee CafÃ©, a pioneering one to boot. It's also the grottiest and shabbiest joint found on Kingsland Road. It totally lacks any appeal that's somewhat found at the neighbouring Time Out-ted Song Que or the bloggers' favourite of Cay Tre - The Vietnamese Kitchen at nearby Old Street. The utterly delicious Pho TÃ¡i (Beef) is consistently textbook-like; beefy stock, properly rare slivers of beef, meal-unto-itself portion and cheap (this is street food after all). The herby BÃºn Ca (fish noodle soup) is equally not-to -be-missed. Additional dishes to go with the Pho that more than complete and epitomise the Vietnamese cuisine are Banh Cuon Thit; the steamed spring rolls (actually more like rolled lasagne) filled with a choice of prawn, pork or plain jane nowt, and Cha Chien; Fried pork sausage. As to date I believe that the cafÃ© is still BYOB, with the money saved on the cheap and more than decent tuck, you can actually afford to splash out on decent bottle of Alsace or Pouilly FumÃ© to enjoy with the meal. Oh, the Char Grilled Quails were absolutely stunning, fraction of the price of what they charge at Yauatcha. Estimable service is taken care of by a bunch of cocky teenage looking boys. The ambience is like a greasy communal cafÃ©.A couple of my Vietnamese French clients have suggested that the Vietnamese fayre offered in London is too well tempered and toned down for their tastes. They suggested that the Pho found in Paris is more like home from home and the best in Europe. With this advice alone I'll add Pho to my itinerary on my next visit to Paris.Although not quite up there with the Choa Phraya experience, I'm more than happy with Loong Kee.NB Folks, Loong Kee bills itself as a Chinese (first!) and Vietnamese restaurant, do us favour and head straight to the back of the menu where the Vietnamese dishes reside. Phew.
A User - 08/10/2008 | report this review
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