Hip street food vendors shouldn’t be the preserve of music festivals or east London hoxtonites, thankfully we are seeing an increasing revival of the culinary scene in Soho. Whaam Bánh Mì is one such venue adding some extra colour to the area literally, with its sharp yellow frontage and pop art posters, it instantly catches the eye of the passer-by.
Tom Barlow, the founder had spent years in Vietnam sampling the best bánh mì on offer to bring his perfect vision of the dish back to London. The vision starts as soon as you enter, it’s a casual and relaxed environment, there is a giant chalkboard to explain to the uninitiated the process of ordering. There are pop art poster installations throughout designed by Laurence Davies, who have worked on branding for funky sites like Honky Tonk and Rabbit.
Everything is under £5 here and they have all the classics such as BBQ shredded pork, lemongrass chicken and beef luc luc bánh mì. I didn’t regret at all ordering the beef luc luc option. As soon as you bite into the creation, you realise this is no ordinary French baguette. They actually bake it fresh every hour as when required, you can taste that it it thinner and fluffier than normal baguettes. The strips of beef brisket were as tender and fresh tasting as you would expect if you went first thing in the morning when they have just received their meat deliveries; they only thing is I went on a weekend evening and the consistency in quality is admirable. It’s marinated mainly with the holy trinity of Vietnamese cooking: fish, oyster and soy sauce and a sprinkling of fresh herbs as garnishes.
Of course they have a other offerings like Thai fishcakes, summer rolls and even English muffin with bacon for breakfast but it would just be a crime to visit a restaurant called Whaam Bánh Mì and not actually order a bánh mì.
No fancy street food vendor is complete without some exotic drink options. I couldn’t resist ordering a goji-berry and green tea from Mangoja. Apparently goji berry has more beta-carotene than you can shake a carrot at.
This is mostly a takeaway kind of venue, although I manfully sat on their small table facing the external crowds heading towards Soho. I couldn’t help but feel like an adult industry worker in the red light district of Amsterdam as the lights of the Windmill strip club opposite were turned on. Passers-by kept staring through the glass window enviously at me as I devoured a meaty looking beef luc luc bánh mì.