Saigon Cafe – Catford, SE6

Vietnamese cafe with bring your own booze in upcoming Catford, South East London

While Saigon Foods cafe has a ‘bring your own booze’ policy (as they’re not licensed to serve alcohol) that keeps costs down, we chose to ‘take-away’ the other evening after work, and relax at home.


Summer rolls – rice paper wraps two rolls @ £4.00


Bo la lot – grilled beef in leaves with rice noodles and salad @ £7.85
Bo la lot – minced beef filling


We ordered summer rolls – rice paper wraps with rice vermicelli, lettuce and herbs with a peanut sauce, Vietnamese spring rolls (pork and prawn rolls which were unfortunately omitted), bo la lot minced beef in betel leaves (vine leaves) with rice vermicelli, mixed salad, Vietnamese dressing with chillis and peanuts (the beef leaves and sauce were very tasty), and a chicken pho – flat rice noodles in broth served with fresh vegetables, herbs and seasoning sauces (very healthy although – aside from the aromatic basil leaves – slightly lacking in flavour).
Chicken pho – rice noodles in Vietnamese broth @ £7.85
This was a healthy meal made from fresh ingredients – plenty enough for two – and really good value given I had change out of £20.00! I can imagine that this food would taste even better served fresh in the restaurant and intend to visit again soon.


Inside Saigon Foods cafe


Menu at Saigon Foods cafe, Catford


The verdict: Cheap, cheerful and healthy. And something a bit different for Catford.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Vietnamese, BYOB
~ Address: 24 Catford Broadway, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4SN
~ Nearest stations: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Saigon Cafe website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Saigon Cafe
~ Location: Saigon Cafe map


Saigon Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hot Stuff – Indian at Vauxhall

A hidden gem, not far from Vauxhall station, Hot Stuff serves great quality Indian food and – being BYOB – is excellent value.

The small restaurant has a nicely intimate feel, and even on our Tuesday evening visit last night it was buzzing. Serving staff were racing around while looking after customers well.

That you can take your own booze (as they don’t have a license to serve alcohol) keeps costs down. Our meal for three came to about £30.00 excluding service. Yes, £30.00!


IMG_3177b_Hot Stuff Vauxhall
Hot Stuff – a hidden gem on Wilcox Road, SW8

Our order included:

– Vegetable samosas @ £2.25
– Chappati – unleavened flatbread @ £1.50
– Peshwari naan – leavened, oven-baked flatbread @ £2.75
– Chicken Biriyani – mixed with rice @ £7.50
– Chicken Madras – spicy hot curry @ £5.50
– Aloo Gobi – potatoes, cauliflower + Indian spices @£3.75
– Chana Masala (chickpea curry) @ £4.00
– Rice, plain @ £2.25
– Soft drinks @ £1.00


IMG_3180_chicken madras
Chicken madras – spicy, sloppy and very, very tasty


IMG_3179_aloo gobi and chana masala
Aloo gobi (front) and chana masala (rear)


Samosa and clean plates
Veggie samosa, and
After (defeated!)


Hot Stuff menu_sample as of Sep2015
Sample menu as of Sep 2015


Humour too…


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: Wilcox Road, London
~ Postcode: SW8 2XA
~ Nearest station: Vauxhall, Stockwell
~ Website + menus: Hot Stuff website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Hot Stuff food
~ Location: Hot Stuff map


Hot Stuff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Needoo Grill – Whitechapel

You wouldn’t know it from looking at the small shop-front on the street, but inside Needoo Grill it’s cavernous. There are lots of different rooms split over three levels. It’s huge.

Piles of samosas + onion bhajis to tempt you inside

Step inside and you’re immediately in the small counter area where piles of large samosas and onion bhajis await.

IMG_7732 Cavernous rooms – note that ‘Needoo’ is carved into the back of the wooden chairs

At 7pm last Friday night (another rainy day and night in London) Needoo’s was already packed, despite being tucked down a side street off Whitechapel Road (in an area with plenty of curry houses).

J, who’s a vegetarian, had been here before (we came on her recommendation). For starters we shared a large vegetable samosa @ £0.95, pakora @ £1.75 and chilli paneer @ £3.50 – all very good (particularly the chilli paneer or chilli cheese) and such good value too. The starters were served with plenty of refreshing salad and a jug of tap water was placed on the table as standard.

It’s a BYOB restaurant, so bringing your own beer (or whatever alcoholic drinks you prefer) also keeps costs down if you’re on a budget.

IMG_7728_NeedooGrill Three veggie dishes to share: aubergine, pumpkin + chickpeas

For main course, we shared three veggie dishes: daal baingun (aubergine) @ £5.50, Punjabi tinda (baby pumpkin) @ £6.50, and special Lahori chana (chickpeas) @ £5.75, along with a portion of pilau rice @ £2.75, a peshwari naan bread @ £3.50 and a garlic naan bread @ £2.80.

Needless to say, we over-ordered. There was enough here for three – our left-overs could certainly have fed another person.

IMG_7731 Total bill for two (or three!): £34.90 – before service

This was a great recommendation. I’ll certainly be back (and will be prepared to queue, as it’s a popular spot) and look forward to trying the meat grills next time.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: 87 New Road, Whitechapel, London
~ Postcode: E1 1HH
~ Tel: 020 7247 0648
~ Nearest station: Whitechapel, Aldgate East
~ Website + menus: Needoo Grill website ~ Photos on flickr: images of Needoo Grill food
~ Location: Needoo Grill map

More East London dining:
~ Fora – Mediterranean restaurant, City branch
~ Kastner & Ovens – great salad selection
~ Mama Thai – Indian + Thai take-away curries + noodles
~ Momo’wich – outstanding Thai + Malaysian

Needoo Grill on Urbanspoon

Ariana II – Afghan in Kilburn

Arranging a spontaneous evening out last Friday, L suggested eating at Ariana II, an Afghan restaurant in Kilburn, North London (a bit of a distance from the first Ariana in New York). We’d both had plans to exercise/go to the gym that evening. Both were swiftly forgotten.

Ariana II is one of L’s favourites, and as Afghan cuisine was new to me, I was intrigued. Not least by the down to earth ‘caff’ style and bring your own booze (BYOB) with no corkage charge.

Prompt friendly greeting @ Ariana II

Booking only at tea time, the first available table was at 8.45pm. And sure enough, every table was occupied when we arrived, though service was speedy and friendly.

Aushak starter

For starters we shared aushak, boiled dumpling filled with leeks, spices and topped with ground meat and yoghurt @ £4.00, and baudinjan buranee, fried aubergines in olive oil and mixed with herbs and spices with Naan @ £4.00, both of which were absolutely gorgeous, especially the ‘dumpling’ which was really light and squidgy.

Baudinjan Buranee starter

For main course, L had chicken shish kebab, chunks of tender chicken cooked with tomato, onion and over grilled wood charcoal @ £9.00, while I had an Ariana Special (and ‘Chef’s choice’ at that): Kabuli palow, tender cooked lamb shank seasoned with basmati rice, topped with carrots, raisons, almond and pistachios and a with side dish (spicy beans in a tomato-ey sauce) @ £9.00. Double yum.

Chicken shish

The meat of this slow cooked lamb shank just slid off the bone. But as I was already full from the starters I ended up taking most of my Kabuli palow main course home in a doggy bag (win: tomorrow’s lunch sorted too).

Kabuli palow

All in all: great food, very reasonably priced (particularly with BYOB) and something a bit different.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Afghan
~ Address: 241 Kilburn High Road, London
~ Postcode: NW6 7JN
~ Tel: 020 3490 6709
~ Nearest station: Kilburn
~ Website + menus: Ariana II website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Ariana II food
~ Location: Ariana II map

Ariana II on Urbanspoon

Mien Tay – cheap n cheerful

*Update 2013* (pending)
This restaurant is hit and miss but worth a try. I ate here in August 2013 (2.5 years since the last time) and it was nowhere near as good as on previous occasions in 2011. Squid was disgustingly chewy and rubbery (so badly over cooked), service was terrible (some people walked out in the queue in front of us – though everyone in queue had booked a table), and sitting downstairs was totally unappealing on this hot summer’s eve….basement toilet problems? (full update pending. LardButty review is 3 / 5 in 2013). It’s no longer BYOB but the wine selection is good and very reasonably priced. Good but not that good.

Lardbutty Vietnamese restaurant of the decade
Crispy sea bream with lemongrass and chilli @ £9.50

Ok, it’s the first Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been to, and I do intend to go to Vietnam so this may be a little hasty and subject to change (given it’s the start of the decade) but Mien Tay in Battersea is seriously good.

My Wednesday evening pilates class isn’t on this week due to the half-term holiday, so a couple of us decided to stretch our stomachs in a different way… by visiting a local Vietnamese restaurant instead.

We turned up to a packed restaurant at 7:30pm having booked a table for two well in advance. We were tagged on to the end of a table for four (proximity of Wagamama’s benches) but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Despite being busy and with a good buzz of noise, there was still a good level of privacy (good accoustics – I didn’t hear a word of our neighbours’ conversation).

But less of the buzz and more of the food.

It’s unbelievably cheap: £8-odd for a bottle of pinot grigio or £2-odd for a glass was the first thing that jumped out at me from the menu. While they do have a license to serve alcohol, you can – at the moment – bring your own bottle (surprisingly no corkage fee either, although they say this bonus will be discontinued at some point).

This is not an expensive restaurant, so I was prepared for it to be cheap, cheerful and perhaps slightly sub-standard. Not so.

For starters we shared:
~ chicken satay @ £6 (intensely nutty sauce, excellent)
~ salt and peppered squid @ £6.00 (in a light, crispy batter – no grease in sight)
~ chargrilled prawn wrapped around sugar-cane @ £6.00 (fabulous – the sugar-cane wasn’t sweet as you might expect, I’ll home in on this next time)

Chargrilled prawn wrapped around sugarcane, starter @ £6.00

chicken satay starter @ £6.00

Vietnamese prawn curry served in a clay pot @ £8.00 – who knew curry could have such depth of flavour?

side vegetables

For our main courses we had prawn curry in a clay pot and sea bream, both with steamed rice and a side of mixed vegetables (including bok choy, mushrooms, etc) which were exceptional.

As for the sea bream @ £9.50, I was probably expecting a filleted portion not the entire fish at that price (see top). I’ve had something similar at one of Rick Stein’s restaurants in Padstow at more than double the price and it was in no way better than this.

Mien Tay is one of the best restaurants in the Lavender Hill area (along with Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak and Santa Maria del Sur, if somewhat more down-to-earth in style). We ate leisurely noticing that the turnover of other tables was fairly speedy. It’s cash only and you do need to book in advance. Go on – call 020 7350 0721.


I visited Mien Tay Battersea again, Saturday night, 5th March 2011. Again, it was very busy with a swift turnover of tables, good service and food was simply brilliant.

1/4 crispy aromatic duck with hoi sin sauce and pancakes @ £7.00

tofu starter – too much garlic and coriander

goat with galangal

This was my first time eating goat. I expected it to be similar to sheep (lamb/ mutton) but it was more like beef and absolutely gorgeous too in a slightly creamy, nutty, curry sauce.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5 (2011); 3 / 5 (2013)
~ Type: Vietnamese
~ Address: 180 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London
~ Postcode: SW11 5TQ
~ Tel: 020 7350 0721
~ Nearest train station: Clapham Junction
~ Website + menus: Mien Tay Battersea website
~ Location: Mien Tay Battersea map

Mien Tay on Urbanspoon