Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Local Eats; Restaurants & Bars

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Local Eats; Restaurants & Bars

Article excerpt


Hoa Viet, SE5 49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 (020-7703 9707) Dinner for two, [pounds sterling]45

Inever eat out on Valentine's Day.

Watching loveless marriages attempting to look good for the god of Hallmark makes me bilious.

The maitre d' of a smart Kensington dining room admits to me that Valentine's Day has the most tiresome atmosphere of any day, and that it is not unknown for certain gents to come in twice: mistress gets lunch (the sexiest meal), the wife, dinner and indigestion.

One friend rang me in a panic six weeks ago, begging me to help him secure a decent booking. Cynicism is no help to those of you who (aren't bitter, single and) have neglected to secure a table for two chez somewhere Michelin.

Don't fret. Go anywhere with oysters - lots of cool pubs such as the Cowand the Ebury do them now. Or go somewhere good, ethnic and downbeat, with purposeful irony, a bottle of vintage champagne and some quality flutes tucked inside your overcoat. Promise the waiter a heavy tip if he'll let you drink it, then act as if you planned this weeks ago. Friskiness is nigh on impossible after expensive, rich French food. Fresh, light, cheap Oriental food is far better.

Vietnamese is the choice for lowkey eating. Hoa Viet in Camberwell pulls a sparky crowd, too. Gay, straight, librarian, bad-ass, young, middle-aged - all sat at and on an orange pine. The furniture is garish but the lighting is gentler than the average Vietnamese. The waiter is full of life. After we had ordered, he said, 'Yeah wicked! Chopsticks or cutleries?' I loved that.

Our dishes came in a steady flow so we could share and discuss each.

Banh xeo, a yellow deep-fried pancake folded over bean sprouts and prawns cooked to juicy perfection (as was all the shellfish), was a good combination but needed salt. …

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