One of a small number of London’s ethnic restaurants to have a branch in its native country, Au Lac is a large Vietnamese eatery a few minutes walk off the main strip of Old Street’s nightlife. The menu is suitably exotic, with plenty of richly-flavoured Vietnamese seafood, alongside the Oriental restaurant standards.
Bahn Quon steamed rolls were irresistibly light and tasty and arrived in a pile large enough to make a meal on their own. Char-grilled monkfish was a great seafood variation on the duck pancakes so familiar from Chinatown, with crisp, thin Bahn Quon pancakes. Our waiter failed to warn us when we accidentally ordered a traditional Vietnamese crab dish and was unable to explain to us how to get into it using only chopsticks, but the bits we could get at were rich with spicy aromas that perfectly complemented the salty, succulent crab.
Prices are as low as the portions are huge, yet the restaurant was completely empty on a Thursday evening, with only two others dining in a space that could comfortably have seated 40. The reason is glaringly obvious, in an unappealing décor and a set of too-bright lights that create an atmosphere as intimate as McDonalds, but rather less cheery.
This is a more than decent restaurant, which is excellent value, but it will have to seriously redecorate if it is to attract the limited passing trade on the Kingsland Road.
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