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Monday, 7 March 2011

London Restaurant Reviews - Mien Tay (Kingsland Road)


My first experience of Mien Tay was at their Battersea branch on Lavender Hill. Bibendum Wines had devised a fantastic wine list for the restaurant and invited a few food and wine bloggers to try their pairings. The food was exceptional and so were the wines, but unfortunately Mien Tay is still trying to obtain its alcohol licence.

The Shoreditch branch is also a BYO attracting a young, hip crowd after a cheap night out. The restaurant is poorly decorated in lime green colours, dusty plastic plants and flowers, and the furniture, a mix of mismatched tables and chairs in wicker and glass, is tired and greasy. Tables are densely packed, and if you happen to be seated by a feuding couple (as Dr G and I were on this occasion) you will just need to grin and bear it.

The menu is extensive and choices are mind boggling. I am always a bit concerned when I see hugely varied menu choices like this. It sometimes indicates a lack of focus and makes me question the freshness of the ingredients.

After much deliberation, Dr G and I started with a portion of "Salt, Pepper and Garlic Squid" @ £6. The squid was deliciously crisp and well seasoned but was slightly overcooked and on the chewy side.

The "Chargrilled Quail with Honey, Garlic and Spices" @ £4.80 that followed was a much better dish. The caramelised honey on the chargrilled skin intensified the sweetness of the meat, which tasted of cinnamon and star-anise - a sensational dish.

Mien Tay's "Rice Vermicelli with Spring Rolls and Pork Bun" @ £6 was another winner. The pork was nicely grilled, and tasted delicious with the combination of spring rolls, salad, fresh herbs and just the right amount of rice noodles. The balance of these components was unimprovably good. One of the best "buns" I have had for a long time.

The "Crispy Fried Sea Bass with Lemongrass and Chilli" @ £10 was impressively large but sadly disappointing. The delicious, vibrant seasoning could not compensate for the poor quality of the flesh - it tasted dull and had a texture akin to previously frozen fish.

One of their signature dishes is the "Stir Fried Goat Galangal" @ £6.50. With a lightly curried coconut sauce, the meat was finely sliced and served with onions and fresh herbs. This was a delicious dish, nicely accompanied by Vietnamese " Steamed Rice" @ £2.

In my opinion, the star of the evening was "Mien Tay's Crispy Chicken with Fish Sauce" @ £5. Folds of chicken skin deep fried until crisp in a sweet shallot and fish sauce, this somewhat unlikely sounding dish was utterly delectable.

Overall our experience at Mien Tay Shoreditch was mixed. We tried some excellent dishes, but others were disappointing. The restaurant lacks atmosphere, service is rushed and impersonal, and the general state of upkeep is poor. For example, as we were finishing our meal, large buckets brimming with dirty plates, chopsticks and refuse were taken past our table to the adjoining restaurant which shares the same kitchen.

Cost: the total cost for the above dishes was £40.30 (not including BYO wine). There was enough to feed 4 people, so I estimate that £10-£15 would be sufficient per head. Potentially good value for money.

Likes: possibly the only BYO option on Kingsland Road. Mien Tay's crispy chicken with fish sauce and the chargrilled quail with honey, garlic and spices were excellent. Inexpensive.

Dislikes: the decor and general upkeep need to be looked at. Patchy cooking - excellent at best let down by mediocre parts.

Verdict: Cheap and cheerful Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road. Some excellent dishes, but patchy standards overall. Given the number of restaurants on Kingsland Road serving food of similar or better standards in more agreeable environments, Mien Tay needs to up its game in my opinion.

Mien Tay on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

  1. Wow, the bun does look good. In your opinion, how does Mein Tay compare with Song Que?

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  2. Nice review mate, I work dead close to hear and have been slows checking all the different places out for lunch. There are so many Vietnamese places to eat in Hackney! Been to 14 so far and know of at least 3 more!

    London Chow, Song Que measures up pretty well I reckon, always been good when I have been. Cay Tre/Viet Grill are wicked too...

    PS Tay Do Cafe is also BYOB, good for cheap eves.

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  3. I really like Cay Tre and Song Que. Agree about the less than ideal environment of the Kingsland Road. Think the Battersea branch might just be the better ofghe two.

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  4. Loads of the Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road are BYO. Sonq Que and Tay Do both are (or were not long ago) and both come recommended by real Vietnamese friends :-)

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  5. I am with Kay, Cay Tre and Song Que are my favourite ones in the Old Street are too. Had very mediocre food at Mien Tay, in fact one of my worst Vietnamese food experiences in London so far. Unlucky ordering it seems..

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  6. Good one but can be improved true! Been there few times!

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  7. A good page to check out desserts and international cousine daily deal rating and comparison is www.coupobox.co.uk

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  8. I was there a couple of days ago and would concur. Some hits (our squid was pretty well cooked) and some misses (the summer rolls weren't great). Overall, I'd put it slightly below Song Que, Tre Viet (on Mare St) and definitely not as good as Viet Grill. Never the less, pick well and it can be very good value.

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  9. I agree, the food is hit and miss and the decor is dead. Not a great dining experience at all! The Battersea branch is much nicer, the food is better as the original owners cook there and the atmosphere is generally much better. If I want to go to Mien Tay, I definitely make the effort to get out to Battersea.

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