i was really impressed by the takeaway i got from banh mi bay’s outlet along rathbone place (off charlotte street) last term, so it was with pretty high hopes that i checked out their sit-down branch at holborn last week. am glad to say that those hopes were not dashed!
paid their outlet along theobalds road a visit on a friday night around 8, and it was packed (and rightly so)! we joined the queue for a table and thankfully did not have to wait long before we were ushered to one. the restaurant isn’t very big, but definitely has sufficient tables for a relatively fast turnaround time i believe! service after being seated was not great though (water only came at the end of our meal after we had asked multiple times since the beginning); but i guess that is to be expected of somewhere so popular and crowded on a friday night.
the menu was too extensive and spread out over too many pages for me to take pictures of, but i snapped some shots of their takeaway menu scrawled on blackboards (note the super reasonable takeaway prices; the dine-in prices are a little more but still very reasonable!):
having just visited hanoi over the christmas break, i was super excited to see banh xeo (this amazing super thin crispy pancake) on the menu – it was by far my family’s favourite food discovery of our trip! didn’t order it at banh mi bay this time though, because it felt more like a summer rolls-kind of night 😉 (but i will definitely be back to try the banh xeo).
we ordered a serving of summer rolls to share, and i had a bun vermicelli noodle salad with chargrilled pork (another of my favourites in hanoi) while my friend had the rare beef pho. the food came quickly which was great because we were pretty hungry by then and the amazing smell of viet food in the air did nothing to quell our stomachs’ complaints.
the summer rolls were nothing outstanding or exceptional, but were certainly a good rendition of a traditional vietnamese appetiser. as summer rolls should be, they were light and extremely clean-tasting, stuffed with fresh ingredients (sliced pork, tiger prawns, lettuce, rice vermicelli, vietnamese herbs) and wrapped in soft skin. the prawns in the rolls were fresh, sweet and juicy, while the skin was thin and soft but not wet. safe to say that our summer rolls craving was successfully satisfied!
i had an amazing bowl of something similar to this in hanoi (bun bo nam bo), from this hole-in-the-wall stall that just sold that one dish, and was the proud recipient of a tripadvisor certificate of excellence. have been craving it ever since, and was quite pleased to find that banh mi bay does a decent version of it, especially considering the fact that we are miles and miles away from hanoi. firstly it must be highlighted that the bowl was HUGE. not sure if you can tell from the picture, but it was really rather big and full of vietnamese goodness! you pour the sauce (like a salad dressing) all over the noodle and mix everything together to give you this:
okay i realise it doesn’t look super appetising, but trust me, it is good stuff. and really healthy too! plenty of veggie and so light and clean-tasting, but certainly not lacking in meat too. the chargrilled pork with garlic was delicious – it was tender, super well-marinated and so very tasty, and they were really generous with the amount they gave. in fact, i finished most of the vegetables and noodle even before i finished the pork! which is not usually the case, but i’m definitely not complaining. i would have liked more peanuts for that added crunch, but besides that, this was definitely good enough to make me a happy girl. really worth it for the price – i can see why banh mi bay has appeared so many times on lists of cheap eats in london!
my friend ordered the rare beef pho and again i think its not very clear in the photo, but the serving was BIG. the bowl was pretty huge and they were generous with both the pho as well as the beef. the beef was thinly sliced and tender, but the piping hot soup was definitely the highlight of the dish – light and extremely tasty, and not too oily or heavy in taste at all. the perfect dish for a cold winters night!
they didn’t have any very exciting desserts so our meal ended there, but we were still more than satisfied with dinner and its huge servings of legit vietnamese fare! love how there’s a takeaway outlet so close to me; its the perfect place to pick up yummy lunch as a mid-day pick-me-up 🙂 i’ve tried the bay special baguette before (pate, spiced pork and pork roll) and i remember it as being pretty delicious too!
oh and my friend who i had all this yummy food with was leaving for glasgow the next day and wanted to take away dinner from there to have on the train… i think banh mi bay’s definitely just earned themselves another fan 😉
Banh Mi Bay