Forget about dodgy-looking Oriental buffets. Greenwich’s Saigon is that rare thing: a restaurant serving simple, freshly cooked food for under a fiver.
Saigon is a short walk from Cutty Sark DLR, Greenwich Park and the museums, nestled next to boutiques and cafes in a prime spot on Nelson Road. It’s quite a small restaurant with a dark wood exterior and plain, generically-trendy decor. Think dark wood tables, plain red benches, beige walls. Although Saigon doesn’t look particularly special it’s clean, simple and right at the heart of Greenwich.
Saigon may not be as showy as some of its neighbouring eateries, but it really doesn’t need to be. It has a wide appeal, attracting locals and tourists, groups and couples. The staff are welcoming, friendly and chatty, offering service that actually feels personal. That goes a long way towards making the quiet, unremarkable space feel warm and relaxed.
Warning: bring your best appetite if you’re going to Saigon. Portions are enormous, and prices are recession-defyingly low, at £4.80 for most mains. The menu offers lots of Oriental staples: wonton soup, roast duck with rice, steamed fish, curries, and fried noodles. A meal for two, with a shared starter, two main meals and a pot of Chinese tea costs less than £14.
As a starter, fried squid with chilli is fantastic; the squid is cooked perfectly, without a hint of toughness, and the batter is crisp, light and salted. There’s plenty of it, too, piled on top of fresh sliced red chilli, spring onions, garlic and pepper. The waitress describes the chicken curry as spicy, but actually it’s very mild, thick, creamy and onion-rich, with a generous amount of chicken. It has a rather glutinous appearance, but the flavour is fragrant with lots of coconut. It’s accompanied by a large bowl of boiled rice.
Pad Thai is the real star though, a massive, heaped plateful of spicy, soy-fried translucent rice noodles, with lots of large, juicy prawns, mussels, squid, shrimps, bean sprouts, red chilli and sliced pepper, topped with crushed peanuts and coriander. A squeeze of lime adds a strong zesty flavour to the fishy richness. All of the ingredients are fresh-tasting and the noodles, although soft, are still slightly firm and not too floppy or greasy.
Saigon offers a selection of beers, including Vietnamese ones, from about £2.60 to £3, plus wines (from £2.60 a glass and £9.50 a bottle) and soft drinks. A pot of Chinese tea, topped up regularly, costs about £1.50.
The Last Word
Saigon’s filling, fresh dishes and low prices make it the perfect place for a casual, quick meal.