Another in a long line of East London institutions spreading their wings so the masses can enjoy their cuisine. Cay Tre Soho does its older brother proud.
Blink and you’ll miss it. No, really. Lucky for Cay Tre, Soho is the kind of place that swallows up little eateries in the mess of its streets so you’re more likely to make an effort to hunt it down. Now, this time, don’t blink. Once you have found it, you’ll see that there really isn’t much to this dinky little restaurant. The muted white wallpaper with a whirling light grey pattern is pretty enough and the white plastic tables are neat and clean. The sofa-style blue and grey seating is comfortable and the patterned floor looks to be original. But there’s little more to it than that. Expect to be squashed into place and rushed in and out, as is the Soho way.
Yes, Soho isn’t the sort of place for long, languid dinners as a general rule and no, Cay Tre Soho doesn’t break from tradition on that front. Still, the food arrives very promptly, in a rather haphazard fashion that doesn’t really matter with this sort of cuisine. Good thing, then. Attracting in-the-know foodies, a few lucky tourists who have happened on it by chance and a contingent of Vietnamese diners, it’s a happy mix of people producing an upbeat atmosphere.
The menu at Cay Tre Soho reflects that of the East London restaurant, with most dishes priced at under a tenner for big, hearty portions that utilise fresh ingredients and spices. If you’re being good then the green mango salad is a must. Priced at £8.50, it arrives with delicious pieces of sundried squid with an unusual flavour and texture that shows up the usual squid offering of restaurants across London. Knotweed is apparently the green bit, with an almost sweet, tangy flavour similar to spring onion. Roasted peanut lifts the dish well, adding depth to each mouthful and a delightful crunch. However, this is only really recommended as a main dish if you’re watching the waistline. Otherwise, opt for something more substantial, such as the Vietnamese duck egg omelette (£7). Like no British omelette, it’s large, it’s fat and it’s filled with spiced ground pork, dill and mushrooms – although it’s more egg than pork and mushroom. Still, it’s well seasoned and very – perhaps surprisingly so – filling. Well worth the price tag.
The wine list at Cay Tre is impressive – very impressive. They have clearly thought carefully about what wines will match the food and, other than a couple of rice wines, the mainly old world selection has been chosen to match and complement spicy food and Vietnamese flavours. Tiger and Asahi help to make up the beer selection and there’s a delightful Jasmine tea on offer for under £2.
The Last Word
If you’re a fan of the original but don’t fancy trekking out to East London, Cay Tre Soho does a great job of bridging the gap into Central London.