While dosing up on seratonin in Battersea Park, my thoughts turned to another, metaphorical ray of sunshine lighting up SW11 - a decent, affordable restaurant. For an area suffused with yuppies and Australians, Battersea has an inexplicable lack of good cheap eats. There's a clutch of decent gastropubs (The Westbridge, The Bollingbroke, Masons Arms) but as far as budget restaurants go, if it doesn't serve fried chicken, or have the word 'King' somewhere in the title it 'aint happening. That was until Mien Tay opened last autumn. One of Shoreditch's Vietnamese stalwarts, the owners clearly took pity on us pho-deprived South Londoners and opened a second branch on Lavender Hill. I've eaten there at least four times since it opened and think I could order from memory now..
Let's start with the salt and pepper tofu. Always start with the salt and pepper tofu. The coating is so crisp and judiciously seasoned, it almost doesn't matter about the firm, gentle bite of tofu underneath. Except that contrast is so perfect, especially with all the chillies and garlic scattered about the plate. Hubba hubba.
And we've got to have the green papaya salad with prawns. They serve it with mini prawn crackers on top, which doesn't really work with all the fresh, zesty flavours going on underneath (oh dear, I sound like Gregg Wallace), but what the heck - just add them to the basket of complimentary crackers and get stuck into the good stuff. It's just a cute touch, like the orange cut into quarters they bring you at the end of the meal.