Megan Walsh goes all-in as the popular pop-up goes full-time
VIETNOM is no stranger to the Liverpool food scene. Since its arrival at the Baltic Market in 2018, the cleverly named food stall quickly earned its place as one of the city’s favourites spots for proper boss food. VietNom was the best thing to grace the Baltic since Hafla Hafla and those halloumi fries – so it came as no surprise to hear that it too would be branching out from the market to find a more permanent place of its own.
It’s the broth that we need to celebrate – it takes this dish to another level of brilliance and I’d bathe in the stuff if you gave me half a chance
Fast forward to 2020 and VietNom Berry Street has been born. Business is booming and it’s everything this end of town has been missing – so much so, it’s chocker when we wander in one Friday evening after work.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: you simply cannot come to VietNom without ordering the prawn crackers. Why? Because they’re not just prawn crackers. These are loaded prawn crackers smothered in all sorts of Vietnamese debauchery. No visit here is complete until you’ve tried them, and you have my permission to slap the hand of anyone who tries to pinch all the ones at the top.
After a first sip of Hanoi beer (£4), we order a small banquet of starters - mostly due to our inability to settle on just two.
We pick the rainbow rolls (£4.50) over their more commonly known fried spring roll cousins – partly because I am a picture of vitality, but mainly because they just seem a bit more exciting. Besides, after what feels like the longest winter on record, the fresh flavours from these colourful rice paper rolls remind us that summer is finally around the corner. Extra points for the spicy peanut dipping sauce, too.
Next up: banh mi - the ultimate Vietnamese street food. I spent a month travelling from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (the city in which the idea for this restaurant was born), surviving on a diet of pho, banh mi and cheap local beer – and it’s the humble banh mi I still dream about.
One bite of today’s smokey aubergine and edamame butty (£5) sends me back East and suddenly I’m perched on a curb, sinking my teeth into another roadside lunch. The chicken bao (£5) is just as good. Soft, spongey and generously stuffed: there’s really nothing you couldn’t love about it.
Moving on to the mains, and the pho (£10) here is the real deal; quite possibly the best I’ve tasted outside Vietnam, in fact. Yes, the brisket is fall-apart fresh but it’s the broth that we need to celebrate – it takes this dish to another level of brilliance and I’d bathe in the stuff if you gave me half a chance.
You smell the coconut curry (£9.50) before you see it. A tag team of lemongrass, ginger and coriander punches you right in the nose so that when it arrives, you can’t help but dive into the bowl like some sort of rabid animal. It’s a showstopper all right. A big carb-filled showstopper.
We somehow finish the lot, yet still manage to make room for an affogato between two (£4.50). We probably didn’t need it, but could you say no to condensed milk ice cream and a shot of hot espresso after dinner? I didn’t think so.
We leave stuffed, but not too out of pocket. For just under £60, we were watered and fed to the point of combustion. As we leave, it’s just as busy, if not more so, than when we arrived – a sure sign of what’s to come. It’s early days for VietNom, but I’m predicting big things. I’ve already planned my next three visits and I advise you all to do the same. Isn’t it a boss time to be a Scouser?
VietNom, 54 Berry Street, L1 4JQ
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Prawn crackers 8, rainbow rolls 8, banh mi 9, bao 9, beef brisket pho 9, curry 8, affogato 7.
Saigon smiles all round.