In a nutshell
Former Hakkasan chef Jeff Tan combines Vietnamese home cooking with French techniques to create a sophisticated menu, delivered with warm hospitality in a minimalist South Kensington dining room.
Jeff Tan gained a starry reputation at Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan, before opening industrial-chic Vietnamese restaurant Viet Food in Chinatown in 2015. Jeff’s latest Vietnamese restaurant goes high-end (no street food-style sticky tables and brusque service here) in a compact space amongst the white stucco townhouses of South Kensington.
The decor is minimalist but cosy, with 60 covers split between two small rooms, one on the ground floor with an open kitchen bustling away in the corner, and one in the basement, complete with tiny cocktail bar (thumbs up to the delicate, refreshing lychee martinis). Extremely attentive staff calmly manoeuvred their way between tables to recommend wines, entertain children, and elaborate on individual elements of each dish with knowledge and passion.
The menu is split into starters, meat, seafood, vegetables and a dedicated pho section (Vietnamese noodle broth with a 16-hour bone marrow beef broth base). Chicken pho had a deep slow-boiled soup served with succulent pieces of free-range chicken, rice noodles and little pots filled with crispy shallots, Vietnamese mint, coriander, fish sauce and lime for added flavour boosts. Here’s our beef pho recipe to try at home.
The bi-Mat tomatoes in our aperitif were described by Jeff as “Vietnamese olives” – cherry plum tomatoes marinated for 10 hours to soak up the flavour of 10 different Vietnamese herbs. A main course of beef was marinated for four hours in fragrant spices then cooked for 24 hours until almost melting in texture, sweetened with oyster sauce, rock sugar and Vietnamese herbs, and served with spicy Vietnamese plums.
Grilled wild king prawns were presented on lemongrass skewers, adding a subtle fragrance. With a sweet-and-sour plum fish sauce and plenty of ‘crispy fluffy stuff’ (crunchy fried garlic and shallots) sprinkled over the top, we loved the contrasting textures of this main course.