The City is slightly un-nerving at the weekend, all of those tiny, winding streets between skyscrapers that are totally devoid of people make me more than a hint spooked. This is not true of Brick Lane, a throbbingly vibrant locality where, amongst a myriad of not always attractive gustatory offerings, you will find some of the best Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi as I am sure you will all know by now) in Town.
Mon Mi have a stand in the Sunday Up Market, an indoor market just off Brick Lane. The two delightful ladies who run it are an accountant and lawyer during school hours. This should be keeping them busy enough, yet they feel the need to work their toes off at the weekend making banh mi in the style they remember from home. Here at Elitistreview we love banh mi and so feel a bit guilty in taking so long to visit them.
The ingredients for their banh mi are on show for all to see, as soon as I saw the Vietnamese barbecue pork skewers I knew they were what I wanted. They have a little grill to warm the pork up before using chopsticks to assemble it with careful precision into the sandwich. All of the important vegetables are included (see? I do eat vegetables sometimes!) and they mix their own dressings rather than use the standard bottled Maggi sauce. I loved the richly fatty colour of the home-made Vietnamese-style mayonnaise and was pleased to see it being liberally applied inside my baguette.
My resulting sandwich, which I decided to call ‘lunch’, was a deeply satisfying example of the banh mi genre. I thought the baguette was properly crunchy, and its fillings displayed the correct melange of soft and crunchy textures together with rich and piquant flavours. I do like fresh chilli in my banh mi but was pleased they showed a judicial hand when adding it, they clearly know it is not a competition. Compared to some of the other lurid-coloured, novelty smelling swill also available in the Sunday Up Market this was a complex and satisfying lunch to enjoy with great pleasure without feeling worried about the bacteriological fauna that might come as an added extra. Top banh mi, ladies, we shall return!
You can read more about Mon Me on their website.
Of course, Brick Lane is a gnat’s crotchet away from everyone’s favourite meat restaurant: Hawksmoor on Commercial Street. Consequently, after my most enjoyable lunch I went there for breakfast.