In amongst all the Vietnamese restaurants on the bottom of Kingsland Road, Song Que is serving up incredible Vietnamese cuisine at outstandingly good prices.
Located on Kingsland Road, Song Que is easy to find – the name is emblazoned across the front of the fairly large restaurant and is painted a pea green for extra visibility. Inside, everything’s pretty rough and ready – the chairs and tables are pretty basic and the larger tables stretch across the restaurant to cram in as many customers as possible. The walls are again painted a sickly sort of pea green, there are a few fake lobsters on the wall for decoration, the menus are laminated and a bit greasy – it’s all pretty kitsch without a hint of irony. But really, going to Song Que isn’t about plush decor or glamour – it’s about authentic, delicious food.
The people who come here don’t fall into any certain group – there are Shoreditch trendies, families and older couples all tucking in together. Song Que has long been the best Vietnamese in London, and people are willing to travel far and wide to sample their rare steak pho. This means it gets extremely busy – Wednesday evenings look like Saturdays, even in these credit crunching times - it’s just a case of getting in line and waiting your turn. And boy is it worth the wait.
The staff are calm under pressure and the food is whisked to your table very quickly. However, the service isn’t over the top – no one will be opening your napkin for you because the staff are simply too busy trying to keep up with demand. The vibe of the place is a feel-good one though – everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves. Big parties crowd around the longer tables and have lively conversations whilst other couples murmur amongst themselves – no one is getting stressed about the crammed conditions because everyone has come knowing what to expect.
Song Que’s speciality is beef pho – a beef stock noodle soup, served with very thinly sliced, rare beef (you can have any combination of steak, tendon and tripe) and there are over 20 variants of it on the menu, including some deviations including beef meatball pho.
However, don’t be tempted by pho and skip the starters as these are also a delight. There’s a great option of a platter for two comprising of: deep fried vegetable spring rolls, spare ribs, deep fried chilli squid sesame prawn toast and seaweed. Without exception, everything on the plate is delicious. The deep fried spring rolls are crispy and crunchy on the outside, with the inside vegetables steamed to perfection. The meat on the spare ribs strips off the bone with tender ease. The squid is light and perfectly cooked, with a surprisingly good chilli kick at the end. The prawn toast is a baguette sliced, with meaty prawns hiding under a layer of sesame seeds – so good that you’ll be craving them for days afterwards. All this for £10 is fantastic – you’ll finish the course nicely full and wondering if the main course will match up.
On to the pho, which is completely reminiscent of the pho you’d be served on a street in Hanoi. Accompanied with a plate from which you can choose what to add (red chillies, beans prouts, basil leaves and a wedge of lime), the steak pho comes sliced with very rare beef on top, with plentiful amounts of flat white starchy noodles underneath. The steak is delicious and extremely tender, almost melting away on your tongue. The soup itself is seasoned well and tastes meaty and salty. The noodles underneath are extremely filling and mean you might reluctantly not be able to finish the meal. A huge bowl of pho weighs in at about £6 – an absolute bargain.
There are of course, other dishes on the menu including the chicken in black bean sauce with chillies. This style of dish seems to be neglected by the chefs, who obviously are extremely talented but yet remain uninspired by the Anglo-style Asian food. The dish is as good as any middle of the road Chinese, and is cheap at around £5.50, but it just doesn’t pack the same punch as the pho.
The drinks menu is brief – there’s a range of bottled beer including the Vietnamese beer, Saigon which is a good variety of Asian beer. It’s about £3.50 for a bottle, which is pretty standard for the area. There’s also wines and soft drinks available including a coconut meat drink which is perhaps worth a go.
The Last Word
Song Que serves excellent food at astoundingly good prices. Believe the hype – there’s no better Vietnamese food in London at this price!