When Londoners think of eating Vietnamese, they naturally default to Shoreditch where Kingsland Road boasts “Pho Mile”. They may also fancy the many Vietnamese eateries in Hackney. However, dotted around other parts of London are some standout gems, and Nep Nep is certainly one of them.
A stone’s throw from Marylebone station or a few minutes walk from Edgware tube station, this family-run restaurant is a real find and serves up all the classics, including vegetarian and vegan offerings. The restaurant is agreeably bijoux and has been recently refurbished. The white painted brick walls feature artwork which takes inspiration from Vietnamese heritage. The name of the restaurant itself recalls the paddy fields of Vietnam.
We had starters of Gỏi cuốn tôm, Vietnam’s most well-known dish, and also fried tofu. The Gỏi cuốn tôm or summer rolls are presented in a very modern way, and the peanut dip that is served alongside it was just right to lift the textures of the roll. (There is of course a separate allergen menu to help you check all the dishes). The fried tofu are moreish, crispy and tasty enough to convert any fried-calamari-loving diner.
The main course choice is substantial. The country’s national dish, Pho, is on the menu in eight different variations. There are also the filled baguettes or Bahn mi. These are a throwback to Vietnam’s colonial past, and are perfect for a lunch time option. The baguette selection was certainly very tempting but we were swayed by the establishments 12-hour simmered broth in the form of Bun bo Hue. Generously proportioned, the aroma of lemongrass, coriander, thai basil, spring onions and the tender pieces of beef and pork packed some hefty flavours. Spicy but certainly not over the top. In contrast, our other main, grilled sea bass flavoured with dill, was as delicate as it was delicious.
If you have not discovered Vietnamese coffee then don’t miss out trying it at Nep Nep. It is no exaggeration to say that coffee is Vietnam’s favourite drink. Introduced by the French, it is served in a French drip filter called a Phin. The coffee drips directly into your cup or glass. It is quite a strong blend, and you have the choice of drinking it with carnation milk or without. You might think that that is a bit 1950s but actually it is earlier! When Vietnam was a colony, the French thought it safer to mix coffee with evaporated milk rather than fresh milk. However apart from that legacy feature, coffee or ca phe, and its myriad content variations, has been well and truly wrested away from the French and made very Vietnamese.
If you are not a coffee drinker then try Che Ba Mau. It is a pudding and sweet beverage rolled into one! Served in a tall glass with mung beans, jelly, coconut milk and crushed ice – it looks and tastes good. Mix in the crushed rice and you get an explosion of crunch and flavours in your palette.
Our visit was during a very busy lunch hour but nevertheless the service was friendly and well paced.
20 Lisson Grove,
Marylebone, London NW1 6TT
You can check out their instagram page@nepneprestaurant