I’ve had a weird week. Not the good kind of weird either. I had a very confusing Tuesday, a very stressful Wednesday and a very sad Friday that I was mentally prepared for but not emotionally. Considering this I thought that this week needed some comfort food. Luckily I found myself on Kingsland Road with some friends hungry, thirsty and cold. What does that situation call for? You’ve guessed it; Vietnamese food and we found it at Anh Dao.
Anh Dao is one of the many Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. Luckily you can generally be confident that you’re going to get some good, honest, genuine Vietnamese food in the restaurants running along the road so when we noticed that Anh Dao was the least busy we decided to take our chances.
From outside it looks a tiny bit run down and dated. It still looks clean but it looks like it hasn’t had a revamp since the 80s. The glass frontage lets you peek into the warm, inviting dining room where groups of waiters are delivering huge bowls of noodles and pho to diners.
Inside the décor is both over the top and sparse with bamboo lining the ceiling and walls but only the odd giant fan and bamboo light cover dotted around. But to be fair you don’t really notice, as there are so many tables with gold woven mats and glass tabletops and giant matching chairs your attention is quickly absorbed. The lovely thing about the restaurant is that it was packed to the brim and, as I say, there are masses of tables but it doesn’t feel cramped or imposing, it’s just nice, relaxed and almost intimate.
Some of my friends had brought their own drinks as they were supposed to be heading to a house party and we were accommodated with clean glasses for the group to share their beers. As I’m not drinking at the moment I ordered a coke that was a regular glass of bottled coke but as it was only £1.20 I couldn’t really argue.
The waiting system is a bit crazy. There are different groups of people for different things. One group to seat you, one to take your orders, one to bring the food and one to take it away – well at least that’s how it seemed and what we were told by one waiter. But they couldn’t have been more willing to help. We had additional people turn up halfway through our meal and they brought another table and extra chairs to tag on to our already large table and brought the additional food promptly.
As I’m still trying to eat healthy I decided to order something small but satisfying. I ordered a hot and sour soup with chicken and a plate of spinach and garlic (though I received morning glory and garlic but it was still green so I didn’t really mind the switch). Others ordered massive bowls of beef noodles or prawn fried rice or chicken pho that all went down well but let’s focus on my soup.
It was packed with bamboo shoots, tomatoes, pineapple, leeks and a decent amount of chicken. It was a fairly small bowl but with the intensely complex and flavoursome nature of the dish, a small bowl is plenty. It had a lovely sweet initial flavour that melted into a spicy kick at the back of your throat and a subtle sourness that made the pineapple come alive. The chicken was fairly good quality, not the best but definitely good and a great way to round off the dish. My only complaint (and it’s tiny) is that I found a tiny piece of squid in it. Usually it would put me off but it was just too delicious for me to care.
The morning glory and garlic (which should have been spinach) was a massive portion. I would usually share a plate like this but I was starving and wanted something comforting but good to fill the hole. The vegetables were a little overcooked and I would have liked a bit more bite but they were still green and full of flavour. And when they say “with garlic” they mean it! There were chunks of garlic on the plate and the strength of the garlic flavour was a little overpowering at first but after a couple of mouthfuls I just wanted more.
I’m still thinking about these dishes. I can still taste the hot and sour soup and the thought of hot, steaming garlic is really comforting. And do you want to know the best part? My soup, greens and drink came to the grand total of £11.70. The most you’re looking to spend on a main dish is about £8.50 and it is a lot of food.
This is the first restaurant I’ve been to in a while that I’m adding to my “must visit often” list. It’s tasty, clean, cheap and as long as I stick to the broths and pho it’s fairly healthy. I honestly enjoyed myself and can’t wait to go again and now know an ideal place to dine when I’m out in East London.