Bun Hue, Bahn Mi and Rolls – City Caphe, Cheapside

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I know this looks like a big lunch but I had a partner in crime for lunch today. Though I could happily finish everything if I wanted to!

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Was reading another food blog and there was a post about City Caphe which I realised is pretty close to where the Boom works while only a 15 mins walk across the bridge from me. When it comes to Asian food, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Thai food are pretty well represented in the City but not Vietnamese. So City Caphe is a much needed find.

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When the Boom and I got to the place, the queue was about 15 deep but it moved pretty quickly and we both got our orders after 5 minutes. Not such a bad thing to be in the queue as it gives you time to decide what to order. In general, the choices includes soupy noodles like pho or bun hue, vermicelli salad or rice with a choice of grilled meats, bahn mi filled with grill meat options and either fried spring rolls or summer rolls.

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The Boom went with a bahn mi with chargrilled pork (£3.50) and the fried spring rolls (£3.75) while I went for Beef Bun Hue (£6.50) and the summer roll (£3.75).

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The problem with eating lunch in the city is finding a place to sit. There are limited seats in City Caphe but as food were made to order, it was pretty stuffy in the shop. Most people bring their food back to the office but sometimes taking a break from the office setting relaxes the mind. Thanks to the Boom who found this peaceful and tranquil setting near the Guildhall.

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The Boom enjoyed his bahn mi. His one minor gripe is the bread could be lighter in texture.  Get the lady to go easy on the sriracha as Boom was scorched by the sauce half way through his sandwich.

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We shared both the rolls and Boom preferred my summer roll while I have yet to have mine as my Bun Hue was very generous portion wise, especially the thinly sliced beef. The fried spring rolls was served with a portion of nuoc cham while the summer roll was served with a different sauce.

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Once again, I’m always impressed when the herbs are provided in a separate container. In this instance, there was sliced chilies, basil and some beansprouts. I would have loved more beansprouts. Word of caution, for those of you who can’t take the heat, suggest you go for the pho rather then the bun hue.

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Cute pictorial to link Vietnamese words to the food it represents. Will definitely go back to City Caphe when I’m craving for soupy noodles.

City Caphe
17 Ironmonger Lane
London EC2V 8EY

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Bun Bo Hue and Banh Mi Dac Biet – Pho, Spitalfields

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Had a team Xmas booze up last night and you can imagine how I feel today. Well, at least I managed to get to the office on time. Did bring my leftover mutton curry for lunch but need some comforting as I’m feeling rather fragile. Weird that seeing I’m such a big soup noodle fan, I only went to Pho at Spitalfields once.

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Instead of ordering my usual pho, I decided to order a bun instead, the Bun bo Hue to be exact . Not bun as in a bread bun silly, it’s Vietnamese and refers to the cylindrical rice noodles used in the dish as compared to the flat rice noodles used in pho. Also ordered a banh mi in case I still feel hungry after the noodles. The bun cost £6.45 while the banh mi was £5.50. Not a cheap lunch but the Junk needed some soothing.

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Like the pho, the Bun bo Hue came deconstructed, almost all components are packed separately to ensure freshness but can be a pain if you are starving. I guess it makes putting together a takeaway order easier as well as I bet the kitchen would have packed some containers beforehand. The bun was a nice change from the usual pho, the broth was spicy but still has a deep beefy taste. The lean beef was thinly sliced which is good and the plethora of herbs added freshness to the dish. Only complain would be that the portion seems to be rather small, much smaller than I recalled.

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There was 2 options for the prepacked banh mi, a chicken and a grilled pork. I went with the grilled pork and was pleasantly surprised that it’s says Banh Mi dac Biet on the receipt. if I’m not wrong, dac Biet means special in Vietnamese. You will be asked whether you want to add some Sriracha sauce (thai chili sauce) to be added while the Maggi seasoning sauce is added by default. The baguette is nice and light, pretty close to the ones I had when I was in Ho Chi Minh with slices of roasted lean pork, a smearing of pate and stuffed with picked mooli, carrots, coriander and spring onions. Perhaps I waited too long to have it, the baguette went a big soggy on me. How I wished I had more banh mi when I was in Vietnam, the £5.50 I paid could have bought me probably 10!

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In all, a good lunch. But food can’t rid hangovers, only time and loads of liquid will 😦

Pho
48 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AG
0207 377 6436

Massaman Beef Curry and Green Chicken Curry – Mama Thai

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I have just died and gone to heaven! Ok ok, at least that’s how it feels like after today’s lunch. So I managed to drag Mr CSS to Mama Thai for lunch today and we made it a point to go later to avoid the long queue I saw the last time I walk by the shop.

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When we got there, though the queue is not too bad but it’s surprising as it’s almost two o’clock. The queue, the smell, the various options in the 2 steam tables all had me buzzing with excitement and anticipation. So much so that Mr CSS complaint I paid no attention to what he was telling me though I’m usually very attentive! Sorry, food addict in the zone you see…

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How can I not be excited when there is a separate condiments area where you can load up on pickled chillies, dried crush chilli sauce and various other sauces when you eat in? Most places are not trusting enough to allow their customers to help themselves to condiments.

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The menu shown on the window of Mama Thai merely gives an indication of what’s available. The menu on the top wall in the shop provides more detail but surprisingly, no price? Prices are only shown for some of the snacks and starters. According to their website, apparently Mama Thai used to be in the Old Spitalfields Market but since has relocated to their own premise. They are open Mon-Fri, only from 1130 – 1530hrs. Guess they strictly cater to the office lunch crowd.

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I decided to start with the basics of Beef Massaman curry and Thai Green Chicken curry. I think you can have noodles as your carb but I went for steam rice. The portion was more than generous as you can see when laid out on a big dinner plate. The beef was nice and tender with chunks of potatoes and sprigs of coriander. The green curry was also pretty good though its missing the basil that is usually present in green curries. If you are wondering are the curries those that will leave you with a ring of fire, worry not. They are both flavorful but not at all hot. I did ask for some pickled chillies that are already prepacked in a small plastic container. Lucky I did as the tartness of the pickled chilli complemented both curries very well. All this for £5! Bargain!

Mr CSS got the exact same order as me so I did not bother to take a pic of his portion. Great minds think alike! Would I go back to Mama Thai again? I definitely will!

Mama Thai
10 Toynbee Street
London E1 7NE
Mon – Fri 1130-1530

p/s: Sorry for the blurry pictures, I was quivering with excitement! Really need to get my addiction in check!

Pho Chin Bo Vien – Pho, Spitalfields

Pho in containers

Clockwise from left: Fried Pork Spring Rolls, Bean Sprouts/Sliced Onions/Spring Onions, Slice Beef Brisket and Beef Balls on top of rice noodles, Soup, Bag of Herbage

So today is part two of the Pho Off! Apologies to everyone who was looking forward to this. The weather was nice and warm recently and not conducive for soupy and hot lunches. But I decided to pull my finger out today.

So Mr CSS and I decided to get lunch together today. It’s nice to have a buddy walk with you and a good opportunity to talk about other stuff apart from work. Appreciate the fact that though he decided to satisfy his addiction for the Chicken Katsu Curry Rice at Japanika, he still walked with me to Pho. Thank you!

Pho Shop Front

I have eaten at other branches of Pho before, the Oxford Circus and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush branches so I know the quality of the food. This branch at Spitalfield is brand spanking new. At most a month old? It has a cut down takeway menu and the takeaway counter is upstairs up a flight of wooden stairs. According to the takeaway menu, you can call and order in advance and just turn up to collect. I did not know about that so ordered on site. It did not take that long which was great! Apart from pho, they have other interesting choices so definitely worth a revisit in future. Since this is part of the Pho Off! installment, I had to order a pho. I went with the Pho Chin Bo Vien and a side of Fried Pork Spring Rolls. Chin = Beef Brisket, Bo Vien = Beef Balls. Total bill came to £10.90. Yikes! Perhaps I can do without the Fried Pork Spring Rolls….

Pho Herbage

The small budge on the top right hand side contains sliced red bird eye chilies

I know that when you eat in, you will get a tray of herbage for you to customise your pho the way you want it. I was not expecting this with a takeaway so was pleasantly surprised. The small bag contains sprigs of mint, basil, coriander and a lime wedge. Yes! Lime wedge, not lemon. They even bothered to separate the evil sliced red bird eye chilies! That’s the way to go!

Pho with torn herbage

If you refer to the first pic, I really appreciate that almost all the components of the pho is packed separately. This prevents the bean sprouts and rice noodles from getting soggy if they were soaked in the soup. But it does take some effort to assemble all the components and tear up the herbage.

Pho stirred but not shaken

This is what I expect a pho to taste like. Though not as good as what I have tasted in Vietnam, I think it’s not a bad attempt, for a chain store at that! The broth could do with a stronger star anise taste but has a deep but not coying beefiness. The herbage and squeeze of lime juice really helps to life the flavour. The beef brisket was slice evenly and of the right thickness and the beef ball taste as they should. All in all, I was satiated.

I really did not need the Fried Pork Spring Rolls. I was stuffed after I finished the pho (well, I drank all the broth).They were filled with minced pork, granted carrot, rice vermicelli and wood ear mushroom. It was nice and crispy when hot and is served with a side of nuoc chiam. Maybe a tad oily. I only had 1 roll and kept the rest as a snack for later.

I don’t think it takes a genius to know which of the 2 pho I prefer. But I will still bored you folks with a PROPER summary post in the next couple of days.

Pho
48 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AG
0207 377 6436
Mon-Wed 1130 – 2200
Thus – Sat 1130 – 2300
Sun 1130 – 2200

p/s: Mr CSS and I got caught up in a celebrity filming session on the way… guess who?

It's Robbie!

Who is the gentleman in pink? It’s Robbie Williams!