Saigon Saigon is in a busy terrace of restaurants on King Street in Hammersmith. It has a pair of connected dining rooms complete with black and white framed photographs from Saigon in the 1940s, with bamboo partitions and dark wood floor. The menu was considerable in scope, with some dishes that appeared to stray into Chinese and even Thai territory as well as more traditional Vietnamese food.
There was a short wine list with 19 labels, ranging from £25 to £75 with a median price of £28, with an average markup to retail price of 3.9 times, a level that would raise eyebrows on Park Lane, never mind King Street. The list did manage to include vintages, which seems to elude some restaurants these days. Sample labels were Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 at £26 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £11, Chateau de la Cour d'Argent 2014 at £45 compared to its retail price of £10, and Moet et Chandon Brut at £75 compared to its market price of £49. Saigon beer was £5 for a small bottle.
Spring rolls were rather greasy, with a filling of mushrooms, noodle and tofu (11/20). A papaya salad with celery and a few prawns was somewhat reminiscent of som tam. It had strips of raw papaya and yet barely any spice to enliven it, so the result was just bland (10/20).Sea bass pieces in a clay pot had soggy skin left on and were a touch overcooked, the farmed fish entirely lacking in flavour. The fish was “caramelised” but this tasted as if an awkward amount of sugar being added to provide rather too much sweetness (10/20). Better were stir fried prawns with lemongrass, garlic and notionally with chilli, though this was subtle to say the least. The prawns were small and lacked sweetness but at least avoided the whiff of chlorine that afflicts too many cheap prawns served in London. The prawns were properly cooked, but again the flavours lacked any vibrancy (11/20).
Vermicelli noodles with prawns were decent enough, the noodles having pleasant texture. There was a lack of seasoning or spice, but this was a decent enough dish (11/20). The worst dish by far was morning glory (Chinese water spinach) with chilli and garlic. Morning glory can have a pleasing delicacy when cooked lightly, but here was bludgeoned into submission with an end result that was soggy and bland. It was barely edible, and the waiter seemed entirely untroubled that we left almost the entire dish (8/20).
Service was a little slow at times but was friendly enough, and the place was very busy even on this Tuesday night. The bill came to £56 per person, with just two beers apiece, no coffee and no dessert, so this was not a particularly cheap outing in the circumstances. The restaurant is clearly prospering, but it lacks the authenticity of the places on the Kingsland Road, or indeed that of the better Vietnamese restaurants in Paris or even Melbourne. I have to say that I would rather eat at Pho, the chain Vietnamese restaurant (with a dozen branches in London at the last count). None of the dishes (bar the morning glory) at Saigon Saigon were really terrible, but equally there were absolutely none that stood out in any way. It was just harmless neighbourhood food, but at a price point that promised more than this.