We had dinner at Café VN tonight. That’s two visits in three days so I thought I’d better show some RES.PECT. and blog about them. What can I say? I’ve fallen head over heels in love, in love with the…

… squidge-tastic noodles… *heart*

I realise there are quite a number of Vietnamese restaurants littered across London’s culinary landscape that churn out a decent pork bun (“bun” as in the vermicelli noodle dish, not a bread roll), so what makes Café VN’s more special than the rest? Well I’ll tell you what. Because to me, it’s not just in the grilled pork, the topping which one would assume to be the crowning glory of the dish. No, to me, it’s the noodles, the 3mm “squidgy” rice noodles that they use, as opposed to the thin vermicelli noodles that everyone else seems to use.

Not that it’s wrong – as I once thought – to use the thin noodles. It’s not wrong at all. Having now spoken to a few Vietnamese people about it, I’ve been enlightened to the fact that different regions in Vietnam will use different sized noodles. In fact, “the more north you go, the thicker the noodles”, said a trusty source.

Well. I want to live at the most northernest northern point of Vietnam and eat the most goddamn squidgiest vermicelli ever!

So because it’s not wrong, whether someone likes or dislikes the 3mm noodles is completely subjective and I for one, LOVE IT. Most people actually don’t even notice, like Panu who was like, what? What’s different about these noodles?


Café VN have been open about two months, and I’ve been there over a handful of times. I eat in for lunch, I take out for lunch, heck I even have dinner there! And I’ve never ordered anything else, so while I have no idea if any of their other dishes trip the light fantastic, I can assure you that the pork bun is worth the whole £5.50 (and only £4.50 for take out!).

I have, however, had various dining buddies though who’ve tried the pho and the salad.

General consensus has been that the pho is average with some thinking it was too bland and some thinking it was too salty. But I couldn’t tell you because I’m like the only person on this planet who doesn’t actually like pho. Weird, I know.

The papaya and mango salad I did nibble on, so I can say first hand that it was ok. Not mind blowing but not bad either, just a fresh salad of green mango and papaya tossed with various other bits.

So overall, I can attest that this is a completely useless “review” (if you consider any of my blog posts reviews… because mainly they are just gibberish) because all I can say is hey the pork bun rocks!

But if you do go, I’m keen to find out what you think of other dishes 🙂

Café VN
144 Clerkenwell Road
Farringdon, EC1R 5DP
0207 278 4123

Cafe VN on Urbanspoon

21 Thoughts on “Cafe VN: I’ve found my squidgy-noodle-love!

  1. Haha I can sort of understand where Panu comes from with that comment! My bf gets a bit “touchy” about his soba and udon and whatnot 🙂 Ah I want more Vietnamese food!!

  2. I’m going to disagree with almost everything in your post on a technical level!

    With Bun, I always thought it wrong to use the thicker noodle and that the thinner noodles were the way to go. But for me, its more important to get the toppings right.

    Pho! How can you not like Pho! Pho is the king of noodles and is even the noodle I chose as my profile photo. If I could be any noodle, I’d be pho.

    That said each to their own and I think you’ll like the summer rolls here as they also use the thicker noodle.

    PS: I worked round the corner from Cafe VN for 10 years but in all that time, it was a Russian joint that I thought was crap. Bloody typical, that two years later , there’s a Viet place that is slightly too far away to walk to for lunch. Boo!

  3. I’m with you all the way on the noodle front sister. I know it’s not correct and traditional, but hey, I like it. There’s just something so wonderfully toothsome about the thicker noodles. Weirdly, i’m not so keen on them in the spring rolls where vermicelli is definitely the way forward.

    I’ve eaten their food a couple of times now and thought the Pho was ok, the bun was good (although the topping didn’t taste very bbq-ed to me) and the squid was very tasty. Oh yes, the watermelon bubble tea was pretty damn fine too.

  4. Those fried onions on the pork make all the difference. Your photo immediately made me stop and read. Pho restaurant had better look out for stiff competition in the neighborhood. They are a very poor imitation of Vietnamese food. This sounds like the real deal.

  5. Don’t think I’ve ever had bun but I do think the fatter the noodle the better in many cases. See pad see ew noodles versus, say pad thai noodles. Just so much better.

  6. Maria: Oh Panu seems to be the opposite! He was totally indifferent as to the various noodle thicknesses… but anyway, yes Vietnamese is always good 😀

    Mr Noodles: you are allowed to disagree with me on whatever you like 🙂 Bun yes, I think the noodle type is totally subjective and up to the individual and agreed – topping is very important. Luckily Cafe VN seems to do the topping very well too! As for pho, I know, I’m WEIRD. And summer rolls, I’m meh about them, for me it’s all about the bun 😉

    The Grubworm: Well, it’s not not correct to use the thicker noodles nor is it not traditional. Just that different regions of Vietnam uses different noodles so in fact its ALL correct and in the end just up to your personal preference. And I prefer squidgy 🙂 I’ve seen the watermelon bubble tea and have my eye on it for next time! 😉

    Mealsinheels: Oh the grilled pork is delicious! and I agree, Pho needs to up the ante to stay in the game. With these better places opening, they will have some stiff competition!

    Sasa: fatter is always better. And I’m saying this while rubbing my full belly 😉

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  8. I always order pork bun when we go for Vietnamese food so very curious about the change from rice noodles (which I love) to thicker noodles. Might have to stop by and give this one a try.

  9. The only fattest noodle I ever come across is the laksa bee hoon. I’m no expert in pho but the ones I had wasn’t that bad. 🙂

    • Oh I’m sure pho is very nice, I’m just not crazy about it the way everyone else is, my choice of Vietnamese noodle is always the bun 🙂

      • Haha. Im a Vietnamese here. I agree with you the Pho is so nice and many people take it as Vietnamese traditional food.. but i still love Bun more than Pho. In fact, we Vietnamese eat Bun more often than Pho.. ^.^

  10. My mum always prefer bun over pho – you are not alone but perhaps you haven’t had very good pho yet – its hard to find.

    whats important is the topping on the bun salad and the nuoc cham. its such a tasty and healthy way to eat – so no matter what size noodle you prefer, its still a really tasty dish and its important that lots of people to enjoy it. It beats a sarnie for lunch! : )

    • I don’t know, I think I’ve had great pho (Pho Anh in Sydney supposedly serves some of the best pho outside of Vietnam!) and it’s not like I hate it, I just prefer bun. Like when I go to Pho Anh (who ONLY serve pho) I will quite happily have a bowl of pho 🙂 And good on your mum, she made me feel better!

  11. Do you like the other noodle soups? Is it the soup part that you don’t like about pho? Most of the time I prefer bun to noodle soup too, but thin noodle is the way to go for me 😀

    • I loooove Malaysian style noodle soups like prawn noodle, laksa etc. I just like the fresh, clean taste of bun I guess… especially in summer! 🙂

  12. Linh on July 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm said:

    I LOVE that you do a lot of my restaurant research for me. Especially on the vietnamese restaurant front. Whilst pho will always be my favourite, there’s room in my heart for bun love as well.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Find me somewhere where they SELL these squidgy noodles (supermarket and which noodle brand). I keep looking in the chinese supermarkets around town and only seem to be able to find the thin type. If you DO find it for me, I’ll make you some bun nem nuong or bun bo xao.


  13. Linh, I think you should look for something call Bu’n Que Lam, that’s the Bun Bo Hue style of noodles, fatty Bu’n it is

  14. Linh on July 2, 2010 at 10:37 am said:

    Anh – thanks! Future stomachs (mine and people I will feed the noodles to) thank you. x

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