A recent refurbishment has placed this already well-loved Vietnamese restaurant in a league above its neighbours on London’s ‘Pho Mile’. But though the décor has changed, the home style Vietnamese cooking remains the same.
A far cry from the formica tables and neon strip lighting of its Kingsland Road peers, the décor in Viet Grill is luscious and inviting. Verdant jungle leaves on the walls might lead you to believe you’re sitting in the tropical heat but the dark wooden tables and elegant lanterns capture the ‘French Colonial’ feel the owners were aiming for in their recent refurb. The restaurant is capacious but never feels large – it’s surprising to find a whole other floor filled with delighted diners downstairs.
At the weekend you’ll jostle for a table alongside asymmetrically coiffed hipsters and large groups lining their stomachs for a night out in some Dalston den - but book ahead and you’ll avoid any frustration. Once seated you’ll see why people flock to the place – it’s fun and buzzy, and Vietnamese staff are swift and smiley in equal measure. Just don’t expect special attention on a Friday night – party atmosphere is all well and good, but if you want someone to explain the menu to you, you’d be best to visit another time.
A mixture of sizzling hot street food-style dishes that you might found in downtown Hanoi and more up-market dishes from the fine dining spots in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Grill prides itself on serving up contemporary Vietnamese cuisine using the best ingredients. The menu is designed for sharing, so the bigger your party, the more you get to taste.
You could go for the amply proportioned sharing plate for a minimum of two people – and the gasps and delight this draws from nearby tables suggests it's a good choice – or you could mix and match your own starters. Summer rolls are a perennial Vietnamese favourite and the Viet Grill ones are perfection in a roll – light, crunchy, healthy and ultra-fresh, they are the perfect prelude to any heavier dishes. The cutely named piggy grilled aubergine is slightly less inspiring, Western palettes being perhaps more used to aubergine with a healthy glug of olive oil rather than the squeaky clean strips of flesh served here.
For mains, the menu offers a substantial roll-call of variations on the popular noodle dish pho, as well as plenty of enticing meat and fish options. Crispy seabass fillet with mango is meltingly soft and perfectly flavoured, and a campfire beef dish succulent and smoky. Take your pick of the accompanying greens – they are all fresh, healthy and delicious, like most of the food here. In fact, you may walk out of this restaurant feeling positively virtuous.
A perfectly ample wine list focuses mainly on white wines to complement the piquant food. There are even a couple of Oriental wines for the more adventurous (the Vietnamese plum wine is served by the glass, on the rocks). For the over the top option which will draw envious looks from your fellow diners, go for the giant sharing jug of special Viet Grill punch, which with its layers of jasmine tea, mango juice, elderflower syrup and Russian vodka is sure to get the evening off to a juicy start.
The Last Word
A fancier pho than the other restaurants on Kingsland Road, this pretty restaurant nonetheless maintains the same great prices as its neighbours.