Que Viet is definitely the poshest of all the Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road. This is reflected in the surrounds, service and varied menu, but thankfully not in the extremely reasonable prices.
Shoreditch’s Kingsland Road is a long one, packed with places to eat Vietnamese food. Whilst most places resemble cafes, canteens, or takeaways, Que Viet is definitely a proper restaurant and, though not at all out of place on the pleasantly shabby street, has a definite air of sophistication about it. Que Viet’s main point of difference is its focus on the influence of French colonialism, an influence which is reflected in its name as well as the multiple appearances of snails and frogs’ legs on the menu.
Que Viet isn’t a big restaurant and there is clearly the desire to fit in as many people as possible. Whilst tables are positioned in close rows in order to enable this, they stop short of being overly crpwded. Immaculately laid out tables, plush leather seats, wood floor, doting and helpful waiters and arty wall dressings contribute to a classiness more fitting of a high-end French restaurant than an East London Vietnamese joint - a factor which manages to suit rather than jar due to the colonial history on which the restaurant is based.
The vast menu takes a bit to negotiate and it’s not immediately clear which dishes are starters and which are main courses. Though staff are helpful and willing to advise, the general consensus is to just order what you want for each course, about one dish per person. Char-grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves (£5.80) makes a generous starter – the wraps are intensely meaty and come with a sweet, slightly spicy dipping sauce. Deep fried salt and pepper squid (£5.50) is a classic and one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Indeed the squid is soft and tender whilst the addictively salty batter is crisp to the bite. Mekong fish hot and sour soup (small, £3.50) is fresh and zingy with flavours of lemongrass, tamarind and coriander along with soft pieces of the Mekong river’s resident fish – basa. A green papaya salad (£5.00) is crunchy and slightly spicy and comes with the option of either prawns or beef for an extra 50p.
A main course of stewed goat with coconut sauce (£6.50) is a rich, aromatic yellow curry and comes to the table in a flaming dish for added drama. Shaking beef with garlic (£6.50), tender beef cubes in a garlicky gravy, is delicious though distinctly not shaking. Slowly cooked duck with onions and ginger (£6.00) is meltingly tender and only delicately flavoured by the spices – a contrast to the tofu in tamarind sauce (£5.00) which is bold and punchy with tamarind’s trademark sourness. Egg fried rice (£2.80) is a perfect foil for these rich and varied dishes, though there are a whole range of more elaborate rice and noodle dishes available.
Desserts aren’t really the specialty of Que Viet, and the portions ensure not many people will have that much room remaining for them anyway, but a range of ice creams and sorbets are available for a refreshing finish.
A fairly comprehensive drinks menu is available covering all bases from rum, gin and brandy to beers and wines as well as the usual soft drinks. A citrusy Vietnamese beer (£2.60) is a recommended and traditional accompaniment, but the fruity house wine, a French Sauvignon Blanc (£13.50 for a bottle) is an equally pleasurable match.
The Last Word
Que Viet merges French and Vietnamese dining styles to create a smart, sophisticated but ultimately relaxed restaurant offering both authentic and creative Vietnamese dishes at a bargain of a price.