So my quest to try different areas of London every week continues. Today we’re moving from Belgravia to Chelsea.
Orchid Vietnamese Kitchen is a small, cosy restaurant near the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in Fulham Road, where my nephew Daniel was born (though Orchid wasn’t there then!). So I have very happy memories of the area – even happier after a visit to this restaurant, I have to say.
Orchid Vietnam pride themselves in serving authentic Vietnamese food from around the country. It seems to vary quite substantially depending on the area and our meal here was a bit like a culinary tour, while not leaving Fulham, obviously. The charming manager, Hung, told us that you could tell which part of the country each dish comes from because they are more salty in the north, more spicy in the middle and sweeter in the south.
Either way, Vietnamese food is a real taste sensation with a unique freshness and zest to it. There’s always an abundance of herbs, sauces are light and tasty and you can tell that all dishes have been conceived of and cooked with a great deal of love and pride.
A lot of the starters are designed to be shared. Like theMonkfish Cha Ca La Vong.
The monkfish is marinated with galangal and saffron, and brought to your table in a frying pan, topped with handfuls of fresh dill. It’s then stir-fried at your table on a handy little gas hob (I’m keen for one of these, you know me, new stuff for the kitchen gets me excited).
Once the fish is slightly crispy the sizzling mixture is placed on top of a plate of cold noodles which have already been sprinkled with chilli, fresh mint, crushed peanuts and a mix of fish sauce and vinegar. Mix it all up and dig in! The contrast of flavours, textures and temperatures is amazing and the monkfish and dill combination totally mouthwatering.
Next we shared the Nam Bo Pancake. A traditional Vietnamese crispy pancake filled with tiger prawns, sliced pork, spring onions and bean sprouts arrives at your table. As does a bowl of water and a plate with rounds of rice paper. And then there’s the plateful of amazing fresh veges and herbs – lettuce, carrot, mooli (radish), basil and coriander.
You take the rice paper and dip it lightly in the bowl of water to soften it slightly. Then place it flat on your plate and layer the one side with the veges and herbs. Slice a chunk off your filled pancake and place it on top. Then, holding the insides down with your chopsticks, roll the pancake up, pulling the chopsticks out when the two sides meet. Wow!
I love food with a bit of action involved and this got me very excited. And the resulting little parcel of deliciousness? Well, what can I say? I loved this dish and am longing to recreate it at home.
Oh, and I met a new herb called Perilla. Part of the mint family, it’s widely used in Vietnamese cooking and also used in the treatement of asthma, sunstroke, nausea and to reduce swelling (among a very long list of other things!). It tastes good too!
For mains we were presented with two dishes that will be coming onto the menu in a couple of weeks. Amazing beef cooked with cinnamon, tender and flavoursome; and lemongrass chicken with a most tasty peanut sauce and a bit of a chilli bite – served with sticky rice.
As well as being a fantastic and intriguing eating experience, Orchid is amazingly good value for money, too. Our shared monkfish starter was only £7 and mains are under a tenner. What a wonderful discovery, I feel we will be back soon to sample some more. The staff were friendly and incredibly informative about (and obviously proud of) all their food so much so that I think they may have convinced us that a visit to Vietnam (yes, the country) may have to be on the cards for next year!
Orchid Vietnamese Kitchen is at 351 Fulham Road