On Tuesday evening my flatmates and I had a date. It’s easy when you live with people to just assume that you are seeing them and not make an effort to spend actual time with them. On nights when I am home I’m often knackered, and now writing, so they tend to get grumpy uncommunicative me, rather than the sparkly (metaphorical, never physical) me that frequents restaurants. So we made a date and went out. After re-reading our Cambodia and Laos diaries the other night we decided on Vietnamese food (near as damn it) and I suggested Cay Tre in Soho.
The restaurant is long and narrow, with windows only at the front, making it a bit of a gloomy place to spend a sunny evening. This isn’t helped by the dark ceiling, which flatmate 1 said made her feel claustrophobic. Also, for the first 20 minutes or so they kept playing with the lighting, changing it from a soft romantic glow to a bright neon light, and back again. It was rather distracting. Otherwise the service was very good, if a little unhelpful. I asked one waiter what he would recommend and he said everything. Helpful.
I arrived before my flatmates and, after, studying the cocktail list for far too long, asked Twitter for help in choosing. They suggested every cocktail apart from the one I eventually ordered, a Hanoi Bling (£6.50, lychees, lemon, gin, Cointreau, delicious). I am nothing if not contrary. When the other two arrived we worked through the menu. I as per usual wanted everything. Luckily our choices were narrowed down somewhat by flatmate 2′s nut allergy, and disgust of fruit and mushrooms. We chose 6 dishes, and asked the waiter if this was enough. He said it depended on how much we eat. Like I said, helpful.
The dishes arrived as and when they were ready. First up was shrimp summer rolls (£5). The prawns were juicy, the salad crisp and fresh, and the dipping sauce, plum with a swirl of chili, a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Next was my meal highlight, a Vietnamese beef salad (£8.50), made with lemongrass rubbed, lightly cooked, meat, sweet fried onions and peppers and lots of coriander. The duck stuffed Brixham squid was tasty (£6.50), although perhaps not particularly Vietnamese (but let’s be honest, I’ve never even been to the country so who am I am to judge?) as were the very crispy meat-filled wantons (£5.75). Less successful were the greasy soft shell crab (£8.50) and sweet potato and shrimp fritters (£6.50). The batter on both overwhelmed the flavour of the seafood which was a shame, as from what I could tell, both were very fresh.
The portions were all medium sized, as popularized by Polpo, and I personally thought they were all pretty good value. Flatmate 2 thought they made it awkward for sharing though – too big to just order everything you fancy as you would with tapas. Some of the food was really delicious, and I think we perhaps just ordered too much of fried stuff, which is not what you really want from Vietnamese. We all agreed we would come back, just perhaps not in a rush.