Wednesday, 9 September 2009
I just wanted to give a bit of a shout-out to a splendid new Vietnamese cafe called Caphe House that has recently opened up on Bermondsey Street, tucked a stone's throw away from London Bridge station. It's a small, neat place with modern art pictures on the wall that for some reason makes you feel healthier and virtuous the minute you walk in - must be the wonderful smells emanating from the counter. They offer the perfect alternative to the usual boring British office lunch - if you're tired of soggy sandwiches, you can instead pick yourself up a zingy noodle salad with roasted meats, prawns or tofu, fresh summer rolls and banh mi (Vietnamese-style pate baguettes sandwiches stuffed with herbs and crudites). Everything is seasoned with wonderful chilli sauce and fish sauce marinades, dotted with fresh coriander and mint and packed with crunchy fresh strips of vegetables. My lunch pictured above was perfect for a sweltering day: fresh rice noodles dressed with fish sauce, lime juice and fiery chilli sauce, topped with lemongrass-infused crispy tofu and packed out with crunchy strips of pepper, cucumber and carrot.
Is there a catch to this place? Well, aside from the massive baguette sandwiches, the dishes aren't cheap. My noodle and tofu salad was a relatively modest portion and cost £5 - I wolfed it down in five minutes. If you add a side order of fresh summer rolls and a coffee, you've let go of a tenner. And service can be excrutiatingly slow - BUT, the food is delicious and the staff more than make up for these shortcomings by being super friendly and remembering you by name if you pop in regularly. I wish them lots of luck and can thoroughly recommend this place if you want something light, healthy and bursting with fresh flavours instead of a flabby sandwich or mayo-drenched salad box. Oh - alongside regular lattes, they do the special Vietnamese coffees (caphe den and caphe sua) which I developed a serious addiction to when I travelled around Vietnam a few years ago. There's just something so delicious about that heady rush of condensed milk and strong black coffee...