The best things in life are free, good things come to those who wait, patience is a virtue and other such adages litter our collective linguistics; phrases that have sprung up over time to impart useful information or just to quell over excitement in small children.
Maybe over time another turn of phrase will spring up in relation to Manchester’s ethnic dining scene; the grottier the better. In my recent travels around the city it seems that those restaurants that look like they’ve been stocked with the furniture from someone’s back yard and have menus that are wipe clean, are the ones delivering the most tasty, most honest and properly priced bowls of food.
Readers of my blog will remember previous glowing reviews for Baekdu, BBQ Handmade Noodles and Izakaya Samsi – well here’s another to add to the list: Café Vnam.
Cafe Vnam interior - with thanks to Manchester Confidential
Located on an unassuming stretch of Oldham Road, Café Vnam is easy to overlook; especially with the monstrous behemoth of Wing Yip and the Royal Mail sorting office overshadowing it from across the road.
Café Vnam is a very simple place; it’s décor from the bargain range in Homebase, bright lights and a laminated menu. However the place is clean, there's a great smell of food and the service is prompt. We started with Gui Cuon, or Summer Rolls, and were delighted at the fresh, zesty flavours that slapped us round the face and made us sit up and take notice of what came out next.
Fresh, herby vegetable summer rolls
The Boy’s Beef Pho was wonderful; a deeply flavoured bowl of steaming soup and noodles with hints of clove and star anise. The pho comes with extras so you can customise your bowl to suit yourself; this included generous bunches of mint and coriander, heaps of bean sprouts and the fieriest little chillies I’ve had in a while. (Cue hilarious hand waving from the boy as he pops one in his mouth by mistake).
Pho Bo - beef pho
BBQ lamb chops were charred and sticky; the meat super soft and moist within – a real testament to the skill of the chef. The chops were topped off with caramelised spring onions, not something I’ve seen before, but the sweet smokiness combined extremely well and jarred well with the sharp, vinegary, spicy sauce accompaniment.
Com thit cuu nong - BBQ lamb chops
The food at Cafe Vnam wasn’t awe-inspiringly creative, didn’t push any boundaries and didn’t look like a work of art - however it was honest, tasty and fresh; and that's something I appreciate much more in a meal when I can actually find it.
Ps – Café Vnam doesn’t have a licence so don’t get giddy and expect to have a beer.
Pps – maybe some of the cheaper English places should take a leaf out of Café Vnam and others’ books and serve fresh, tasty food rather than tasteless, fatty cardboard.
Price for one starter, two mains and a glass of coke: £15.10
Food – 7/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Service – 7/10
Value for money – 9/10
Total – 30/40
Go again – definitely. And you can park outside as it’s not fallen foul to Manchester City Centre’s daft new 8am-8pm money making parking sham.