Occupying the spot once held by KFC at the top of the infamous Bigg Market in Newcastle is VietCafe, which purports to offer a taste of Vietnam to diners looking for something a bit different to the Greggs and kebab shops nearby.
Having opened last month, VietCafe are serving up traditional breakfasts, Banh Mi and Pho dishes in a small dining space, and takeaway is also available. While we were queuing to place our order a Deliveroo biker was picking up a delivery to be biked across the city.
I was interested in trying out this new venture as I’d seen a specific vegan menu advertised on their Facebook page. My sister gamely agreed to also try out some of the veggie dishes but the Teen was adamant he would be opting for a meatier plate.
Vegan Chicken, Beef, Pork and Tofu was pretty intriguing and I wondered what was being used for each of the substitutes. I opted for Vietnamese Vegan Beef Pho, while my sister selected the ‘Chicken’ Rice Bowl.
The prices were reasonable and service was pretty swift. The Teen’s BBQ Grilled Pork was the first to arrive at the table, served with a side salad and Vermicelli. It came with a spicy sauce to dress the dish yourself but he was not keen on it. Instead he used the Sriracha and Hoi Sin sauce that was on the table instead.
Next to arrive was my Pho, swiftly followed by Lucy’s rice.
Considering we’d ordered different meat replacements both came out with the same ingredients. A dressing accompanied my sister’s dish which I added to my broth instead. She also used the condiments on the table to add flavour to her meal.
Delicately aromatic without overkill on the dreaded coriander, I thought my Pho – which is a Vietnamese noodle broth – was delicious. It was a substantial dish, with little need for the beansprouts and lettuce which came as a side to share. The tofu used was properly pressed, drained and seasoned so it wasn’t bland and tasteless.
We felt a little disappointed that the same elements had been used to create the dishes as they were clearly billed as different. Without menu descriptions it is difficult to know if anything flavoured the soy and bean curd pieces to justify the labelling, but we certainly couldn’t detect any. Still, our meal was enjoyable and we felt the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. It was also reassuring to find a specific vegan menu available, which took some of the worry out of ordering when you aren’t so familiar with the ingredients and cuisine.
With chicken curries and spring rolls also on offer there’s food that is sure to appeal to those who aren’t as adventurous. Adjacent is a supermarket stocking many unusual ingredients in the hope diners will be inspired to try making the dishes they’ve sampled at VietCafe at home for themselves.
Thanks for reading,
Interested in trying out something a bit different in the Toon? Read our review of Thai House Cafe on Clayton Street here.