Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Salvation in Noodles, Dalston
Opening a Vietnamese noodle shop in Dalston has, it must be said, a touch of the coals-to-Newcastle about it. The main thoroughfare in this part of town is Kingsland Road, home to a huge number of Vietnamese restaurants, many of them extremely good (the Viet Grill is, and always has been my own favourite) and most of them able to knock up a comforting bowl of Pho faster than you can say Ăn ngon nhé.
But I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until (and until well after) you're all entirely sick of hearing it, there is no reason to complain about somewhere being a bit derivative, or flaunting a familiar concept, if the end product is decent and value for money. Not everywhere can be, or needs to be, stunningly original, and anyone boycotting, say, Clockjack Oven because it's a bit like Chicken Shop, or avoiding Dirty Burger because you've already been to Patty & Bun, risks diddling themselves out of some very nice food indeed.
Anyway, speaking of Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop, I'm reliably informed the very same brains (Nick Jones' Soho House) are behind Salvation In Noodles on Ball Pond Road, and you can see some of the family resemblance in the garden shed interior and clean, pared-back menu. The Soho House group certainly has its fans, and its detractors, and while there are clearly better places in town to get chicken and burgers both, I've never left any of their branches disappointed.
SIN seems to be aiming for a similar level of comfortable competence. Chicken wing starters had a very (perhaps a bit TOO) crisp skin but contained piping hot, moist flesh and had a good amount of those fragrant Vietnamese flavours (garlic, fish sauce).
Fried spring rolls were slightly less successful - a thick, rough pastry had swallowed up a lot of the cooking fat, meaning they were rather soggy - but the flavours again were good (nice and porky) and I liked the sweet & sour dipping sauce they came with.
Noodle soup is really what you come here for though, and Bun Rieu was worth every bit of the £9.50. In a vast bowl of complex, beguiling stock floated brown crab meat, slices of incredibly tender pork and some huge, bouncy-fresh prawns. Fresh herbs and vegetables added texture and SE-Asian aromas, and whilst I have had slightly better noodles once or twice, for the price and considering the generosity with the seafood, you really couldn't complain.
The beef version (Pho bo) was just as successful. Thin ribbons of pink steak slowly poached to grey as you work your way through more lovely stock, springy beef balls, and another generous pile of noodles, herbs and vegetables. Again, it's not the greatest Pho in London but it is certainly nowhere near being the worst, and £9 gets you way more than you could reasonably expect. Even the Viet Grill's beef pho is £1 more a bowl, for example.
Good food served at reasonable prices seems such an obvious thing for a restaurant to aim for that to praise anywhere for doing exactly that seems rather like congratulating the buses for running on time. But as we've all occasionally discovered to our cost in this city, and this rather credulous part of town in particular, not everwhere has their priorities in the right order. So for a bill of £45 for two people, for plenty of food and three beers, thank you Salvation in Noodles for being good enough to make me want to return. "Salvation", though, does seem a bit dramatic; may I suggest... "Satisfaction"?
EDIT: Salvation In Noodles have been in touch to say that actually they are nothing to do with Soho House, the confusing seemingly arising from the fact that owner Colin Tu used to run Big Dirty Burger, no relation to Soho House's Dirty Burger. So huge apologies to Colin, and best of luck with Salvation In Noodles which surely deserves to do well.