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BANH MI BAY and a new category

bunLast night my married friend (I currently only have one, although this will change very soon) and I had tickets to see Michael Pollan talk at Conway Hall with the School of Life (full report to follow). Needing sustenance and something to ward off stomach grumbles during an hour long talk about food, I suggested we met at Banh Mi Bay, a casual Vietnamese cafe a few minutes walk from the venue. The inside is clean and calm – pale green walls, scrubbed wooden tables and simple white chairs. The menu consists of a few starters (spring/summer rolls), pho noodle soups, bun noodle salads, and banh mi baguettes – standard Vietnamese fare.

We ordered a couple of ginger and apple juices (they do have a small wine list and a couple of beers if you fancy them), and, having both had rather large lunches, two bun vermicelli noodle salads with char-grilled lime tiger prawns. The juices arrived promptly and were freshly squeezed and delicious. Our salads arrived un-mixed and with a small bowl of nuoc nam dressing on the side. We tossed it all together and tucked in. The salad consisted of crisp beansprouts, clean white noodles (I used this description on Twitter last night and a friend wondered if dirty noodles existed. I said they did and are served at Bone Daddies. We both hope that dirty noodle doesn’t feature in Urban Dictionary), fresh lettuce and cucumber, ribbons of crunchy carrot and daikon radish, and a generous sprinkling of toasted peanuts. The prawns were plump and juicy with a lovely sharp lime and garlic marinade. The fish sauce had tiny pieces of chili floating in it, and when all mixed together it was a fresh and zingy bowlful of tastiness. It was £12 a head including tip. For cheap, fresh, tasty food this is my new favourite place.

You might have noticed that I have added a new category to this blog: “Healthy(ish)”. These are the sorts of places that I am increasingly appreciating – places you can go to with friends for lunch or dinner that do not necessarily involve huge portions of meat or enough melted cheese to coat the city of Cheddar in a greasy glaze. Quite a few of my friends and I over the last year have been making more of an effort to eat well and exercise more. I think we are all realising that what we put into our bodies has an affect on us and will impact our health in the future. We also know that what we do now will pay dividends down the line – it is much easier to get fit in your late twenties than it is in your early thirties (apparently). But eating well can be tricky when you eat out as much as we all do, and while being healthy is important, I am a firm believer that so is having a social life. So I have increasingly been suggesting going to places like Banh Mi Bay, where the food is delicious but you leave feeling bouncy rather than weighed down by a tub of butter.

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