From this, Que Viet stands out like a beacon with its friendly, attentive service and original, carefully crafted menu.
Que Viet gets as busy as the rest of the Pho Mile, but coming here is more of an occasion than it is in some of the alternatives, which serve as cheap pre-boozing pit stops. Que Viet is somewhere you’d take a date or spend a long evening with a friend.
THE GRUB: Unexpected flavours await you as Que Viet serves food from northern Vietnam, which differs markedly from its southern cousin. Dishes tend to be saltier and pepper rather than chili is used for flavour.
We begin with a house specialty, grilled mince beef wrapped in betal leaves. I’m vegetarian but the rolls look so delicious nestled in their beds of vermicelli and peanuts, waiting to be wrapped in a lettuce leaf and dipped in a sweet sauce, I almost renounce my conviction.
Before I find myself abandoning 20 years of meat abstinence, however, our waiter bring a plate of crispy soft-shelled crab that is decadently delicious.
We also try the Ha Noi Fish, sizzling pancakes that we wrap in lettuce and dip in a salty, pungent fish sauce, a house specialty that is not for the faint-hearted.
Somehow convincing ourselves we’re still hungry, we plum for the steamed sea bass as a main course. The fish flakes lightly off the bone and is delicately flavoured with lemongrass.
With this we share a slow-cooked aubergine, stuffed with tofu and mushrooms and dripping with flavour and juice.
We finish with bowls of warn coconut milk and banana and feel instantly transported to a tropical beach.
BEHIND THE BAR: A great wine list takes away the pain of not being able to bring your own. The owner tells us he’s big on matching the right wines to his dishes so ask for advice. Many wines are available by the carafe so you can try several along with different parts of your meal.
Que Viet also stocks beer and a full selection of spirits.
BILL PLEASE: Starters from £3.50; mains from £6.80; bottle of wine from £15.50; beer from £3.
VERDICT: Don’t just charge at random into a Kingsland Road Vietnamese; do some homework and be rewarded by the likes of Que Viet.
102 Kingsland Road, E2 8DP