I broke several self imposed rules in choosing to eat at Saigon Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant in Greenwich. One, it’s located on the main street, which is usually a sign that it relies on tourist trade and does not have to concentrate on winning over repeat customers. Two, it did not look busy. Three, it seemed unlikely that a cheap and cheerful place in a sleepy suburb could offer good authentic food. But it was very cold (and snowed an hour later after I boarded the ferry to return to London), my friend and I were hungry and it was nearby.
Luckily, Saigon does almost everything right. Apart from not having anything obviously Vietnamese on the menu (it’s more generic Chinese) the food is fantastic. From the top down: pork dumplings in chilli sauce, eggplant with pork, five spice beef and bok choi with garlic. The beef was the special dish – a stew or braise where the meat was falling apart with tenderness, it is spiced with five spice (cinnamon or cassia, star anise, pepper, ginger and cloves). This may be a Vietnamese dish, as I spotted something very similar on the menu of another Vietnamese place in London (but that other place may have also been more generic Chinese).
The Greenwich Phantom gave it a cautious approval in March 2009 but I also learned that Saigon failed a food hygiene inspection in December 2008. This is exactly the kind of information I spent all last year campaigning for. The UK is so far ahead of Australia in relation to the transparency of local government information. To be fair to Saigon, everything seemed very clean during our visit and the food was delicious.
£21.95 for two for this amount of good fresh food was a revelation for me. It was the probably the best food bargain of my London trip and it made a good day even better.