Along Kingsland Road aka ‘pho mile’ in London’s Hackney, there is an abundance of Vietnamese restaurants that are mainly from North Vietnam. Song Que is one of few in London that is from the South. One of my favourite dishes that I love to order is bánh xèo. Many of the restaurants along Kingsland Road do not offer bánh xèo or do not make it even remotely how it should be. When I first discovered this offering at Song Que, I knew it was culinary love at first sight.
I have eaten at Song Que for a number of years and I still do. I flirt with others around London but I still come back to this humble little green (and dated) establishment. The food here speaks volumes and the prices match too. The staff are quick and sharp speakers but don’t perceive this as rude and let that put you off. Peak times can involve queuing for up to 40 min (which shows its popularity with the East London crowd and Vietnamese families alike) so be warned if you find your bill slipped onto your table as you wipe away the last crumb from your mouth, but time it right and you could enjoy some of the best flavours of Vietnam in this corner of London.
I may well be singing its praises but one complaint is that Song Que has an exhustive menu and the traditional home foods that are on offer are not quite as up to scratch as the more popular dishes. Many dishes are strictly not Vietnamese either – rather Cantonese, which means introducing yourself to the cuisine based on this menu would prove tricky.
Despite that, I can vouch for the following, which appear on my bill time and time again.
This is grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf. It’s served with fresh lettuce, herbs, pickled carrots and daikon (aka mooli) and rice vermicelli. Balance a leaf flat in the palm of your hand, place the vermicelli, herbs, pickle and beef on top, roll up like a cigar and dip in the nuoc cham. Essentially, a taste of heaven in your hands.
This is the famous banh xeo. Cooked to perfection, slightly crispy on the outside and even more so around the edges. Traditionally, the meat is pork but here they use chicken, and the filling is fried off and cooked into the batter rather than placed only on the inside. However, these are minor points; this is still a great dish.
The prawn paste in sugar cane is another delightful dish. Although not the best on the menu, the incorporation of sweet sugar cane seeping into the fried prawn is as delicious as the picture shows. This is served and eaten in the same way as the grilled beef.
The green papaya salad with pork and prawn is another nice dish, if you can excuse the poor decoration around it.
The bowl of grilled pork, shredded pork and spring rolls with rice vermicelli is a lovely dish. It is a one-bowl-type dish, traditionally eaten at home.
A steaming bowl of pho ga is very much soothing for the soul. The clear broth is seasoned very well, the bowl’s so big you could bury your head in it, and you wouldn’t want to surface for air until you slurp every last drop.
Wash down your meal with cafe sua da (iced coffee).
Song Que is a busy, loud, vibrant cafe, which isn’t a description too out of place in its home borough of Hackney. My family enjoy it, all our friends who we have introduced to it enjoy it, the foodies enjoy it en-masse, perhaps its time we shared it with our readers too.
134 Kingsland Road
Monday to Saturday 12pm to 3pm & 5.30pm to 11pm (last order)
Sunday 12pm to 11pm (last order)