Thursday, 17 September 2009

Review: Song Que (Vietnamese), London


I regret not blogging earlier as I would've loved to share my experiences eating in Vietnam. I probably don't eat Vietnamese food as often as I should despite London having a small Vietnamese quarter on a stretch of the Kingsland Road (just north of Shoreditch High St and east of Hoxton Square). This part of town has been dubbed the 'Pho Mile' by Bellaphon who has eaten at each and every one of the Vietnamese places along here but I've not made it past Song Que and you're about to find out why. 

Although this review is part of my soup noodles guide, I couldn't resist kicking off with goi cuon (£3.60), The literal translation is salad rolls but they are also known as summer rolls. On Song Que’s bilingual menu, they're called ‘fresh roll prawn & herbs wrapped in rice paper’. These were freshly made as evidenced by the crunchy herby salad filling which complemented the rice vermicelli (bun) and the prawns well. By the way, there were three prawns in each roll which is more generous than Rasa Sayang are with their prawn noodles !

To the uninitiated, pho is the famous beef and rice noodle soup of Vietnam served with accompaniments of beansprouts, herbs, chilli and lime. Noodle geeks might be interested to know that the word pho actually refers to the rice noodle but over the years it has become shorthand for the noodle soup itself.

I'm pretty sure that Song Que has the largest selection of pho in London. There are no less than 24 choices on the menu with none costing more than £6.80. Most of these are beef based with the more extreme versions including tendon and tripe but there are also chicken, seafood and tofu options. I went for the pho tai nam (£6.30) which is a combo of rare sliced steak and well done beef flank.

The beefy broth had hints of star anise and cloves and came further alive when the herbs and a squeeze of lime were added. I only threw in a couple of chopped chillies as I didn't want to overpower the broth. The rare steak slices were actually rare but even better was the well done flank which tasted really beefy (I know this is a crap sentence but I don't know how else to put it). The crunchy beansprouts also contrasted well with the slippery smooth rice noodles.

I also doubt that I'll come across a larger portion of soup noodles in London - the photo below was taken at about the halfway mark. By this point I'd nearly finished the soup it was that tasty !

Any negatives ? The decor may not be to all tastes and I wouldn't have chosen the pastel green paint. Service is efficient and occasionally brusque. However, who cares when the food is this good.

Verdict: An early front runner for the best soup noodles in London. I wish there were more places like Song Que where the food is fresh, healthy, affordable and most importantly tasty !

Other Stuff: Don't do a 'Toby Young' and order the Anglo-Chinese dishes lurking on the menu (sesame prawn toast, crispy aromatic duck etc). The bun dishes - cold rice vermicelli served with a variety of toppings such as grilled pork - are also very good here.

Song Que on Urbanspoon


  1. At least you've been to Song Que! I haven't even been to Pho Mile, which is pretty sad. I have a few restaurants on the list though...I certainly won't be doing a Toby Young, thanks for the reminder!

  2. Helen, you must go to Song Que - it'll be good training for when you visit Vietnam. I can also recommend the chao tom (grilled prawn paste on sugar cane) and bun thit (rice vermicelli topped with chargrilled pork).

  3. Song Que is very good for pho. I also really enjoy Tay Do and Viet Grill (on the same stretch of road).

  4. Weird - I just posted on Song Que - and I ate more or less the same stuff you did :)

  5. A-in-L - thanks for the recs. If either do banh cuon (Song Que don't) then I'll be off like a shot.

    Meemalee - loved your post ! Will definitely try the quail next time.

  6. Hi, glad to see you also like Song Que, i enjoy that place a lot. I enjoyed reading your others posts too particularly the one on Rasa Sayang which i am going to this Sunday. You are very knowledgeable on Asian cuisine and I love everything Asian specially noodles in every shape and size! Luiz ;0)

  7. I really need to go here. I LOVE summer rolls! I have a massive craving now...

  8. Luiz - you're too kind but I'm not as knowledgeable about Asian food as you might think. One of the reasons why I'm blogging is to get more clued-up on food in general.

    Helen - those summer rolls taste as good as they look !

  9. Thanks for this preview - I might be heading to Song Que soon (not been to Pho Mile in YEARS)!

  10. A-in-L - well I'm definitely going to try Tay Do - thanks !

    Su-Lin - no worries - I'll be interested to know what you think.

  11. So you are missing Cay Tre and Viet Grill. Their Pho and Bun Bo Hue properly the best in London. I've really enjoyed every of they Noodle Soup Dish

  12. Anon - I've tried Cay Tre and thought their pho was a bit on the bland side.