Good Evening, Vietnam: Banh Banh

Written by on 16 September, 2018 in Food, Reviews - No comments

Nick BuglioneNick Buglione meets the Nguyen family at Banh Banh

It’s a family affair. Banh Banh, cutting its teeth in the new hipster hotbed that is millennial Peckham, has opened a second place along the increasingly interesting Coldharbour Lane.

Brixton via Peckham and 1940s Saigon. Where “Granny” Nguyen was a chef and whose recipes are now in the hands of the grandkids (with Mum helping out of course).

The recipes may be “handed-down” authentic, but the Banh Banh dining room itself is modern and almost totally minimalist. Bare white walls, wooden tables, utterly clean lines and precise, with a dash of funky shutters creating “bar stool” booths. No mood music, just a friendly welcome… and food.

Trad Vietnamese cuisine (in a world of the opposite of “clean” eating street snack dining) is one of the healthier cuisines on the Brixton menu – fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy, very little oil in play.

Not sure “Gran” was serving funky cocktails such as our Pride + Chuoi, monkey shoulder Scotch, banana liqueur, honey, sesame bitters, lemon zest, sesame brittle or Dang Negroni, koko kanu coconut rum, Campari, Punt e Mes vermouth, mango bitters, orange zest, pineapple. Nice start kids.

Effectively it’s a small-to medium plates operation. We’re here for dinner on the way to Whirled Cinema (a cinema in Brixton, ladies and gentlemen, who bother to pay their staff a living wage) but they do an impressive brunch menu at the weekends.

Choosing from “smallish” to “biggish” (almost a main), clean eaters will approve of classic summer rolls, rice paper parcels filled with paddy herbs and your choice of prawn, shredded pork or tofu. We had prawns, dipped in sweet chilli. Sticky chicken wings, glazed in fish sauce satisfied my primeval carnivorous palate and Mrs B took on a not insubstantial bun noodle salad, a hot and cold bowl of vermicelli noodles and pickles, shallots, peanuts and in our case, spicy BBQ pork patties. More restrained diners could get by on this alone.

But that would be ignoring what is possibly closest to a “house special”, banh khot pancakes, a hot, steaming skillet of blini-sized savoury turmeric pancakes topped with tiger prawn, spring onion and shrimp dust. To be dipped along with accompanying salad into nuoc cham sauce (fish based sauce pimped with sugar, lime, garlic and chilli.

Or BBQ beef in betel leaves – dinky charcoal grilled leafy parcels with ground beef and lemongrass.

The pancakes and the wings were our favourites. If I was being the occasional fusspot I am not paid to be, I’d say the salad’s pork patties and the betel beef parcels were a little sturdy but I am also aware I am not paying big bucks in Mayfair (the prices here are extremely user-friendly).

And everything comes with a hefty serving of enthusiasm and a cheerful face. There is a lot to be said for service with a smile, as quite a few places forget. Of course they do pho which I will have to try for lunch.

Fay Maschler of Evening Standard fame fell over herself in loving the original Peckham Banh Banh. This correspondent isn’t quite so rhapsodic but we should keep our eyes on Banh Banh as a great little place doing interesting, authentic, healthy oriental dining just down the road is to be enthusiastically welcomed. Try the pancakes.

326 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8QH | 020 7737 5888 | banhbanh.com/brixton/ | @BanhBanhHQ

About the Author

Nick Buglione is the worst kind of foodie in that his gastro ambitions are frustratingly rarely matched by his culinary skills. Eating out he is as happy with a dirty burger, comforting cafe fry up or a Michelin-starred menu. Nick will be bringing even more recipes, reviews, news and cheffy interviews from the pop-ups, restaurants, street stalls and cafes of Brixton as well as bar and pub reviews and the occasional cocktail. He'd love people to get involved, can be contacted at nick@brixtonblog.com and please send all and any general foodie news to food@brixtonblog.com.

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