What: Banh, Banh is the new kid on the Brixton block, a Vietnamese food hub with a grandma at the helm. Not literally, however she is the source of the authentic dishes to be found inside. In fact, if you weren’t sporadically hiding your g’mas cooking amongst random items of furniture as a kid, then you were following the 1940 journey of your Saigon chef grandma like the Nguyen siblings, to create a Peckham restaurant followed by this brand-new Brixton venture. The siblings at the helm epitomise familial fruition with their culinary creations, lucky enough to have hand-me-down recipes. We visited for a Sunday brunch Vietnamese style.
The Look: The look was very “Brixton”, snugly fitting into the street food culture scene of chop stick wielders and bowl slurpers splashed across our quirky South London district. A twist and turn from the station, it’s positioned a phở bowl through away from Brixton village and market roll, ideal for a Sunday stroll after brunching.
The Setting: I couldn’t help but pick up on the cleanliness of the restaurant. It’s very minimalist, and I don’t think this is a result of the venture’s newness, so much as a theme that is also followed through in their Peckham branch, reminiscent of tradition with polished wood dominating the restaurant, illuminated by hanging exposed light bulbs, separate intimate booths and a larger dining area to the back which is highly spacious. The bar upon entry is clad with foliage and a simple display of spirits.
On the Menu: The brunch menu had us with head in hands, for positive reasons only. First of all, it was 1pm and we’d done that “thing” where you don’t eat until then to “save yourself”. Consequently, everything looked sumptuous, made even more so by our waitress singing the praises of each delicious looking dish.
So, on the menu there’s a more breakfast-y section consisting of a veggie brekky, banh xeo sizzling crepe (which is eyes bigger than ya belly big), eggs bo ne, and more. Followed by a sly smattering of hangover-reliever cocktails to the right – bloody mai, aperol spritz and mimosas, and more lunch-y vibes in the form of summer rolls and papaya salads.
What We Ate: What didn’t we eat should be the question posed! I jest, we were actually very well behaved considering the grumbling tummies we found ourselves faced with. My partner opted for the Pho (his first choice, despite then travelling around the menu and arriving back at pho twenty minutes later), and I had the rice bowl. Yes, you know I love rice. You can choose to add various things to your dishes, tofu and mushroom being one of the options which I fell over my words asking for when the waitress came over, in a tofu-loving haste. The tofu was cooked to perfection, in my eyes. It was soaked in something, I assume soya sauce? Soft on the palette but had that verging on crispyness that allows tofu to have some prominence instead of being solely flavourless. Amongst that and the jasmine rice, the pickled slaw was the largest flavour contributor and the bowl of sauce to pour over. The dish gave you the fuel to jump on the rest of the day.
The Pho was equally as endearing, with beef that was soft and a sauce that packed a punch, but not a face tensing one. The noodles, as my partner described, were more “al-dente” to ones he’d had before, making them more wholesome than noodles where they’ve often melted before reaching your mouth. The soup is cooked for up to eight hours and you could really taste this (like when you take a bite into your last nights’-supper Chinese the morning after and feel like you’ve gone to culinary heaven – don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean).
What We Drank: A mimosa (me), so tasty, and an aperol spritz (partner – very summer apt). Both drinks perked us up a treat and gave us the not so fabulous idea to head to a Brixton pub post-brunch to indulge in yet more drinks. Monday eat your heart out. Banh, Banh have a raucous range of cocktails to delve into too, aside from the brunch offerings.
Go With: Anyone who was at the shindig you were at the night before – sore heads unite, and all that jazz.
Where: 326 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH, www.banhbanh.com
Final Word: This is one of the best brunches I’ve had. Eggs benedict can take a back seat because Vietnamese and its flavour offerings is where it’s at. Also, a nod to the service that was so sleek and swift. An example? My waitress saw me struggling away with my chopsticks and charged across with a spoon and fork so I could scoop up the remnants of my rice. Now that’s my kind of attention to detail!