South-East London has quite a large Vietnamese population, and as a result, has more than its fair share of Vietnamese restaurants. One of our go-to’s on a weekend lunchtime is Café East – a large, utilitarian dining room housed in an ex-pub on the edge of a carpark that serves a nearby leisure complex. Here you’ll find hordes of East Asian (and quite a few non-Asian) families tucking into steaming bowls of pho and other Vietnamese classic dishes.
What I think sets Café East apart from the competition is the depth of the pho broth, which is boiled for many hours and the subtle cinnamon and star anise notes add a pleasant warmth. The helping of fresh bean sprouts, chili, lime and aromatics on the side is more generous than most other places. Also recommended is the BBQ pork vermicelli served with tangy sweet pickles and salad – mix it all up and enjoy.
Service is brisk and turnover of customers is high, meaning you most likely will need to queue but not for too long. As such, it’s not really a place to linger.