Urban Orient review: A taste of Vietnam in a laidback, cafe setting
Vietnamese has been steadily growing in London as a popular cuisine after years of dominance by other Asian food, such as Thai, Chinese and Indian. However, I found I’ve often had to go into East London to find decent Vietnamese… until now. I’m quite well acquainted with the many venues on offer in Crystal Palace, However, due to their lack of a website or Twitter presence, I wasn’t aware of Urban Orient until a friend suggested eating there. Last weekend, a large group of booked a table, and were given one by the large windows so we were able to watch the bustle of Crystal Palace going by. Although open for dinner, as well as lunch, the open kitchen and woodwork gave the venue a relaxed cafe-vibe which I really liked. The interior was decorated with vintage IndoChina paraphernalia and old typewriters which made it stand out to other Vietnamese restaurants.
To start with, a friend and I shared our starter of Banh Khot – a plate of four mini savoury pancakes filled with shrimps, mung bean and roasting herbal flavours (£4.80). They weren’t quite what I was expecting when I heard the word pancakes, but they were compact and delicious and I would likely order this again when I return. For my main, I had the Bun Cha Ca – vermicelli rice dish with crunchy salad and spicy fish sauce topped with delicately spiced battered fish. It was incredibly filling and delicious. One of my friends chose the Won Ton Soup with pork and really enjoyed it, but again found it very filling.
The staff were incredibly friendly and relaxed, especially having to put up with 12 of us chatting away. The menu is very good value and includes a mix of dim sum, soup noodles and rice dishes. The venue is cash only and BYOB – which frankly I believe a lot more venues should be BYOB. A friend and I shared a bottle of Sauvignon between us with corkage only £4. Overall, it is a good value and a pleasant place for a relaxed meal. I will definitely be returning.
- Urban Orient, 74 Westow St, Crystal Palace, SE19 3AF. Tel: 020 8616 4511. Nearest train station: Crystal Palace.
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