Cafe VN – Farringdon / Clerkenwell

Reviewed on February 15th, 2013 by Dina

There is something truly comforting about a hot steaming bowl of pho. The combination of the thick rice noodles, the broth and the vegetables is perfect.

Cafe VN specialises in pho – the noodle soup, and bun – the noodle salad. The bright lime green sign lights up the outside of the restaurant. The green colour theme is followed through into the interior. The restaurant has a casual feel to it and even though it is fairly small in size, it is very clean and light. Red lantern style lights hang from the ceiling.

The vegetarian Summer Rolls were a cold starter. Shredded lettuce, cucumber and thin noodles were wrapped in the rice paper. The rolls were fresh and light.

In contrast, the vegetarian Spring Rolls were hot and generously filled. They were quite oily. Both the Summer and Spring Rolls were served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Cafe VN Summer RollsCafe VNCafe VN Spring RollsCafe VN Vegetarian PhoCafe VN Pho GarnishesCafe VN Spicy Vegetarian PhoCafe VN InteriorCafe VN Strawberry Cheesecake Ice CreamCafe VN Interior 2

To drink, it was pure coconut water. This was a refreshing drink, served in a tall glass. The coconut water did not have any sugar or additives added to it and it did not need it either.

Even though pho was what I had in mind, it did not stop me getting tempted by the stir fried noodle and rice dishes. The food that was being brought out to the other diners all looked really good.

But I stuck to my original choice of the Vegetarian Pho. This noodle soup came with thick rice noodles, tofu and mushrooms. It could also be ordered as a spicy version. The garnishes that came on the side were basil, beansprouts, lime and chilli. The pho was really delicious and filling. The broth had a light flavour to it. The big bowl of pho was certainly a hearty dish!

A simple dessert of ice cream completed the meal. The Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream was better than other ice creams that I have had of the same flavour. Big chunks of the biscuit bases and strawberry pieces, combined with the creamy ice cream was just lovely!

Cafe VN gave us fresh tasting and filling Vietnamese food. The food was cooked to order. The staff were friendly and gave us service with a smile. It would be nice to come back to Cafe VN to try the other dishes!

Cafe VN, 144 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1R 5DP

Rating: ★★★★★

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Portal – Farringdon

Reviewed on October 20th, 2011 by Dina

For a really special occasion, Portal is the place to go! Exquisite food, excellent service and a wonderful atmosphere is what this restaurant is all about!

On entering Portal, there is the bar area. The restaurant area is slightly separated from the bar and it extends right through into the conservatory! As we were early, we started off with drinks at the bar. The bar staff were really knowledgeable about the drinks and made us feel comfortable straight away!

As soon as the restaurant was opened for the dinner service, we were shown through to the light filled conservatory and our drinks were carried through for us! This dining area looked out onto the greenery filled garden. The tables were decorated with fresh pink roses in black square vases and white square candles! There was also a room filled with neat rows of the different wines at the back end of the conservatory!

The friendly staff presented us with a bread tray which allowed us to choose our bread roll of choice! The waitress was helpful with recommendations of the food and also explained us to us quite thoroughly about the dishes that we enquired about.

As we were waiting for the starters, the staff bought over a couple of canapes, which were complimentary from the chef. These were little biscuit spoons with artichoke purée, topped with mackerel. The canapes were really nice and we were pleasantly surprised that they were served warm!

The hot starter of roasted green pepper salad with grilled sardines was lovely. The sardines were rolled up and on a skewer on top of the sliced peppers and onions.

Both of our main dishes were presented beautifully and looked too pretty to eat! There was a great amount of attention to detail! The Portuguese turnip leaves rice with grilled halloumi cheese and tomato concasse was absolutely perfect. The rice and turnip leaves tower was surrounded by raspberries, blackberries, orange crisps and fig crisps! The halloumi cheese had been grilled just right. All the flavours worked well together. This dish was extremely pleasing to the eye and to the palate!

Portuguese octopus rice with pan fried octopus fillets and watercress salad was the main dish that my friend chose! The octopus fillets were tender and cooked to perfection. The tomato based rice was served from a steaming iron pot which the staff brought to the table to serve from!

Our dessert was pumpkin souffle with strawberry ice-cream. It has to be the best dessert that I have ever tasted. The pumpkin souffle oozed with the warm liquid centre. It was not served in a ramekin how souffles are normally served. The pumpkin souffle was topped with fresh strawberry and blackberry pieces. The strawberry ice cream tasted like we were eating fresh strawberries. It had such an intense flavour. To top it off, the strawberry crisps and starfruit crisps were also great! The whole dessert was amazing!

Portal served us with the most wonderful dining experience and one which we will always remember!

Portal Restaurant and Bar, 88 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH

Rating: ★★★★★

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54 – Farringdon

Reviewed on June 1st, 2011 by Dina

What stands out from our dining experience at 54 was the absolutely fantastic service that we experienced. It felt like the staff really went out of their way! It is not very often that you feel so welcome in a restaurant.

54 had lots of dishes that took our fancy! For the starters, we had the classic prawn crackers. We were presented with a square bamboo basket of fresh prawn crackers that were still warm and crunchy!

The Roti Chanai was a lovely starter too. The flaky roti bread was already cut into triangles and came with a small dish of dhal. The dhal was fairly thick and went well with the bread!

The mushroom green curry was my choice of main dish but my only hesitation about it, was that I was not sure if it was going to be too spicy. Hence, I asked the waitress if I was able to try a little of the sauce before I ordered the dish.

The waitress was great as she brought out a little sample to taste. The same went for the fish soup; she let us taste it before we ordered!

The mushroom green curry was a mix of field mushrooms and green beans in a coconut curry sauce. It had a good flavour, not too strong and was fairly mild. It came with a portion of jasmine rice.

The other dish of chicken noodles made with shredded chicken, yellow egg noodles and vegetables was a satisfying choice. It had plenty of flavour and the whole dish was cooked well.

All of our food was of a generous size. You could tell that effort had also been put into the presentation of the dishes!

The waitress was so friendly and good with her suggestions on what to order. She advised us to try the different curries. Also, as I was concerned about the spiciness of the curry, she said that I could have some yoghurt to make it milder, if I needed it!

I love coconut water but not the sweetened versions. Coconut water was one of the drinks on the menu, so I had to try it. When I asked if it was fresh and natural, one of the staff came and gave me a complimentary one!

The drink was perfect: sweet coconut water with big chunks of coconut! I was given a little fork so that I would be able to eat the coconut!

54 had a lovely decor with wooden screens segmenting the dining areas. It also had an open kitchen. 54 had a wonderful relaxed, friendly atmosphere, great service and staff and all in all good food too!

54 Restaurant, 54 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3BL

Rating: ★★★★½

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