Review | Viet Grill, Shoreditch

photograph © Jason Lowe

Kingsland Road in Shoreditch has become something of a Mecca for Vietnamese food lovers. In fact there’s very little else to eat at that end of town, save for an excellent Spanish gaff on Columbia Road and a few just-about-passable burger-ish places in Hoxton Square. The Breakfast Club is worth a trip for the vibe, if not the food. Miso should be avoided at all costs. But really, if you’re planning on forking out some of your hard-earned shekels on food in that part of Shoreditch – and you want to avoid all manner of Nathan Barleys and P-Dos – Vietnamese is the way to go.

There are plenty of options, but somehow I’ve always ended up in the Viet Grill. I’d never been blown away, despite some glowing reviews, but they very sweetly asked me along last week and it would have been churlish to say no. So off I went on Friday night via a couple of looseners on the roof at Boundary (definitely a well-advised diversion) and had a truly stellar evening.

The room is at the swankier end of the Vietresto spectrum. Some of the cafes further up towards Dalston look more like school canteens and good for them, but this place is softly lit and intimate, with little fishies tumbling in tanks and walls like Mowgli’s bedroom. There’s a good buzz without it being deafening, and there’s a downstairs bit that I’d never known about.

We first ate an unordered but well-received plate of ‘Piggy Grilled Aubergine’, a nifty dish of soft aubergines with little flecks of minced pork. Oh but wait, I’ve forgotten to mention the great revelation of the evening. I flimsily suggested we order a bottle of wine, at which point my friend Nic looked at me like a pansy and insisted we order hot sake. I’d had sake once before in the blazing sun at a music festival, and did not like it at all. But this stuff was incredible. Sod pairing food and wine – when it comes to this sort of food, hot sake goes with everything. Everything.

I digress. To start we had summer rolls, a lobster and crab salad, and a mango salad. Summer rolls were like most summer rolls – a little rubbery, a little strong on mint, a little so-what otherwise. You either like them or you don’t. I don’t. But the salads. Ye. Gods. Mango all pepped up with smashed nuts, shards of crunchy salt squid, chilli and mint, and then a great stack of soft shellfish that was so light and fresh that you could have stuffed it into a pillowcase. What a start.

A main of wok fried fresh scallops, king prawns and calamari lacked the oomph that had made all the dishes so far (all but the summer rolls) spot-on. Some decently cooked pieces of fish didn’t quite get the support needed from the midfield that you look for in Southeast Asian food. The ‘Chicken Royale’ more than made up for it though – a spatchcocked poussin that had spent the past few hours sitting cosily amongst cinnamon and herbage before being slapped on a grill and served dressed in soy sauce. Proper hands-on eating.

We finished with a whopping plate of delicious coconut ice cream, one last snifter of sake (it even just about went with the ice cream – remarkable), said our goodbyes and tottered out of this diamond in the rough.

The meal was comped, but I reckon we’d have got out of there at about £25 a head. You can certainly eat for much less though. Many thanks to all at VG for being so kind.

Viet Grill
58 Kingsland Road
London E28DP
020 7739 6686

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Review | Viet Grill, Shoreditch

  1. I have long held the belief that nothing tastes better than free food (I am also proud to state that ‘All You Can Eat’ are my four favourite words in the English language, but that’s not for here) but it’s good to see that despite the nosh being on the house it hasn’t stopped you from finding some faults. The honesty and clarity of write-ups like this one should be enough to silence those who carp on about the rights and wrongs (mostly the wrongs) of bloggers accepting freebies when, as you so succinctly put it James, it would be ‘churlish to say no’.

    Viet Grill has been on my culinary radar for ages; the bip is sounding louder as a result of reading this!

    • Thanks Hugh. I think it’s absolutely fine to accept freebies as long as you can remain objective. Personally I feel I’m more critical when it’s a freebie – if a rezzy has the stones to invite someone along to review it then it opens itself up to criticism more so than usual.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Review | Viet Grill, Shoreditch « James Ramsden -- Topsy.com

  3. I’ve tried a few of the Vietnamese joints on this stretch of East London road, as well as on Mare St, but never this particular one. I have been looking at it;s revamped exterior and thinking about trying it. Sounds like now is the time, particularly if they do a good punchy salad. I have had too many disappointingly lackluster ones in London in the past, so it’s good to know they’re good here. That poussin sounded good too.

    I had never thought of pairing sake and Vietnamese before, but now you talk about it, what a good idea. Clean flavours abound in this cuisine so sake would definitely go well.

    • Well it only took me eight months from commenting on this review to visit Viet Grill for myself, but I finally did, and I loved it (read all abaaaht it at http://bit.ly/TPFP_VG) I’m only annoyed that I neglected to remember your hot sake recommendation; nonetheless the Sauv Blanc we did swill with our meal was, like everything, ‘VG’.

  4. Miss Frankie

    How about Cay Tre in Hoxton? Ate there the other day and the food was wonderful. Great beef summer rolls you cook and roll yourself at the table and a lovely, fresh pho. Fun experience and yummy food means this place is going on my regulars list.

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