Sunday, 26 September 2010

Viet Garden review - Islington Vietnamese restaurant exuding old world charm

Address: 207 Liverpool Road,
London N1 1LX
Tel: 020 7700 6040
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: **
Service: **
Ambience: ***
“For Korean, head to New Malden. For Vietnamese, head to Kingsland Road” dictates the conventional food wisdom. While I was a bit disappointed with Song Que despite all its hype, I am more than impressed with the variety of pho served. Other than pho, our foray into Vietnamese cuisine is limited to luan rang that we fell in love with at Cay Tre at Old Street, just round the corner from Kingsland Road.

In all honesty, we were on our way to The Barnsbury in our quest to search out the best baby friendly restaurants in Islington when we were waylaid by Viet Garden, which is just beside the pub along Liverpool Road. Nothing on its unassuming façade indicated that it was still open for business (some places do close for Sat lunch) other than the fact that the front door was opened.


“Mind going in to check whether there’s any parking space for the pram?” I asked Wife while eyeing the couple of steps at its entrance warily.

Wife popped in and gave the thumbs up two seconds later. I had to struggle a bit to lift the buggy into Viet Garden proper. I should be eating less and exercising more really. Viet Garden was almost empty saved for two tables. We were given the table closest to the door probably because that’s the only table with some space for the pram.

The old charmer

Viet Garden with its understated furnishings has got this old world charm. Even its simple bar counter with half filled liquor bottles haphazardly placed on a couple of shelves seemed to somewhat fit into the theme. There was even a box of Chinese tea bags perched on top of a beam for the occasional order. Soft elevator music playing in the background helped quite a bit. All it needs now is one of those ceiling fans with wide rotating blades.

The hard board fan shaped menu is perhaps the only thing that is out of sync with the homely feel. I expected a worn laminated plain paper menu instead. Alarm bells started ringing when I caught sight of the omnipresent “Singapore Fried Rice” and “Singapore Fried Noodles” on Viet Garden’s menu. Wife and I exchanged glances and I gave her a nonchalant shrug. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much from the meal after all.

Other than the two dubious choices, Viet Garden offers only two pho – the “pho” and the “special pho”, not exactly (name of Kingsland Rd restaurant), is it? We felt a bit adventurous so Wife ordered the “pho” while I went for the its “special” counterpart. While waiting for our pho, we asked for some salt and pepper chicken wings as well.


Instead of lightly deep fried, Viet Garden’s salt and pepper chicken wings (£5.95) turned out to be roasted. It was heavily marinated with turmeric with a tinge of lemon grass, which overwhelmed the salt and pepper. We thought that the onion slices and spring onions liberally sprinkled on the wings helped soothe the taste tremendously.


Other than the obvious difference in size, it turned out that the main difference between pho (£4.90) and the special pho (£7.50), , is that while the former comes with only either chicken, beef or seafood (prawns), the latter include all three. Not only that there are some slices of slightly spiced fishcake in the special pho.

special pho

Maybe it’s me but I felt a bit odd having chicken breast and jumbo prawns in my pho. The beef slices came across as a bit tough and they were clearly not tenderloins. That said, the broth was flavourful.

Viet Garden is clearly not in the same league as its counterparts along Kingsland Road. However, in the quiet residential area where it is located where you can’t find another Vietnamese restaurant in the vicinity, it does have its niche.

Viet Garden on Urbanspoon

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FishHawk said...

"London Chow" has been included in this weeks A Sunday Drive. I hope this helps to attract even more new visitors here.

Dave said...


I've walked past this place so many times on my way to the Regent, and never been tempted to eat there. The menu looks more Chinese than Vietnamese, which is what it was before.
Shame you were disappointed with Song Que, as it does a great Pho.

C K said...

Thanks for including London Chow at A Sunday Drive!

Hey Dave! Actually, I'm quite taken with Song Que's pho and the large variety of it. To give it credit, the three of us ordered all different pho for the sake of variety and the soup stock all managed to taste different, which is great of course.

It's just that I had huge expectation of the place before we went there and it's just didn't match up to it. Some pointed out that I've ordered the wrong dishes. Probably, but still...