Chaps, I was in a bad way last week.
On Monday after work, I went out to a nice respectable feminist discussion group, organised by the admirable Rachel Hills – who I must stress had nothing to do with what subsequently occurred. I ended up doing vodka shots with other progressive thinkers in the York in Angel until they kicked us out at closing.
I was perfectly happy on the way home, when I treated fellow late-night Northern Line passengers and my mostly-asleep husband to the highlights of ‘A Little Night Music’ (I think they especially enjoyed the bits in 12/8 time).
“It’s all right, it’s Monday!” I reassured Ewan when he tried to feed me water and get me to go to bed. “You can’t get hangovers on Mondays.”
Now, OK, yes, I’m mostly vegetarian, and no, I don’t usually drink caffeine.
But for a grunging, knocked out death shambles like I was on Tuesday, I don’t think there’s anything better than hot meat inside bread and dense strong coffee.
Enter City Caphe.
City Caphe opened in 2010 on Ironmonger Lane, one of the thin little streets that branches out from Cheapside and Poultry. It’s run by an actual family, it’s decorated to look like a real Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall and it’s absurdly cheap for where it is – in the City and, specifically, right across the street from pricey (but so, so worth it) meat feastery Hawksmoor.
City Caphe serves a good range of Vietnamese street dishes, but when I was there, everyone was ordering banh mi.
I hadn’t encountered banh mi before last year. It’s a great example of the way culture and history make food happen: ‘banh mi’ just means ‘bread’ in Vietnamese, but as a name of a dish, it’s the child of French colonialism in the Vietnam peninsula – Vietnamese fillings in a French baguette.
City Caphe makes its own baguettes (they’re wonderful, light on the inside, crispy but not thick or chewy on the outside) and fillings (also incredible) and iced coffee Vietnamese style, with condensed milk.
They also offer (what I assume are) Vietnamese cold drinks, but I didn’t think ‘grass jelly drink’ was a wise move on an uncertain stomach.
I did grab a pair of summer rolls as a side, mostly because they looked so pretty in the chiller.
On Tuesday afternoon the queue was about 20 people long, but moved quickly – I arrived at 1:15 and was seated by the window with my food by 1:30. The baguettes were going fast, though, and they did run out of banh mi by the time I left twenty minutes later.
It was a great meal. Effectively…
Me before lunch at City Caphe:
Me after lunch at City Caphe:
Draw your own conclusions.
City Caphe is at 17 Ironmonger Lane, EC2V 8EY, London. It’s open 11:30am-3pm Mon-Fri, but they occasionally do evening events like supper clubs or tasting menus. Banh mi is £3-4, pho is £6-7, and spring and summer rolls are £3-4. Turn up before 1:30 if you want a shot at the banh mi.