Vietnam

King William Walk

Every so often when I visit The Phantom Webmaster, we go to a splendid restaurant called The Dragon Den in leafy Ewell. As long as you go on an ‘unpopular’ night, you can order what you like, as much as you like for a certain price, and the food is excellent. I’m always trying to persuade the owner to open a branch in Greenwich – to no avail – he’s fed up with the catering trade and wants out. I’d rather given up on finding anything similar in our neck of the woods.

So. Hands up who thought Vietnam was a rather dingy-looking all-purpose oriental eaterie, probably not that exciting? Yup, me too, despite the fact that I had heard good things about it. I think it was those photos of glassy-looking food in the window that did it.

But I have set myself the task of testing out every eaterie in the area, and Vietnam was next on the list. And…It’s a bit of a find, folks. Maybe I’m the last bugger to discover it, but just in case I’m not, here’s a lowdown…

Like most places where you can order as much as you like for a set price, (Sunday night through to Thursday; there’s a slightly different arrangment on Fridays and Saturdays, and a buffet at lunchtimes) it’s best to go with a group, so you can test out a little bit of lots of dishes, rather than just order a couple.

As we walked in, there was a large table of Far-Eastern people (not sure where from – didn’t like to stare) doing just that – always a good sign – they generally know what they’re doing. In fact the place was downright crowded for a Monday during a recession.

We ordered most of the usual suspects – spring rolls, crispy seaweed, sesame prawn toasts, crispy duck etc. and all were good. In fact, in some cases, better than good – I’m not usually much of a fan of sesame prawn toast but this was crispy and tasty, unlike the soggy stuff you get elsewhere.

There was a good amount of crispy duck, plenty of extras and enough pancakes for rolling. The seaweed came in a little basket made from a baked pancake, which was cute (tasted dull; I don’t think you’re supposed to eat the garnish, but I’m all for experimentation…)

The main courses, too, were well-flavoured and not swimming in MSG. We’d ordered plenty of dishes, so I tried to give back the little notepad they take the orders on; the guy wouldn’t let me, just in case I wanted to get anything else after that lot.

Again – classic dishes – beef and chicken, king prawn and lamb, with various sauces and cooking methods. Don’t make the mistake I did, btw, of thinking the vegetables are side dishes. They are just vegetarian-option mains. I am an obedient Phantom who was brought up to clear my plate and thanks to the little note at the bottom of the menu “order as much as you like but please eat all you have ordered,” ended up very full indeed.

It came with as much jasmine tea as we could drink, but other things like beer were extra. It’s £16.50 per head for the all-you-can-eat option – though they do add an optional 10% service charge – which, given the friendly attention despite their being busy, was only right and proper.

I like this place. A lot. And now I’ve been in, I actually like the fact that it’s a bit dingy-looking from the outside (inside, of course, is bright and clean, including the loos – a perfectly pleasant and comfy atmosphere in which to eat.) It keeps the tourists from crowding it out…

The Phantom says check it out.


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