The colours and decorations are bright, the service fast and friendly, and the food is crunchy and reasonably priced. The second Mien Tay opened at 180 Lavender Hill, Battersea in August 2009, following the success of the first in Shoreditch in 2008.
There's a freshness and nowness to Mien Tay's Vietnamese cooking. The owners, Su and Le Tran, come from the Mekong Delta, so fish and vegetables are big on the menu. It's the opposite of 'Slow Food'. The pace is hectic, and dishes cascade onto the table almost faster than you can eat them. And, at a time when eaters-out are more careful of pennies while piling on pounds, an average meal will cost only around £30, including wine and a tip.
Talking of wine, there is an excellent 14-wine list chosen by Willie Lebus of wine merchant Bibendum. All are available by the 125 ml glass, carafe of 250cl, and full bottle. Which means you really can have a wine to suit the dish you order. Notable hits for us were the dry, tangy white Picpoul with the Salt, Pepper and Garlic crispy Squid (gluten intolerants note: dusted with potato flour, not wheat), and the savoury red Aglianico pairing the coconutty Goat with Galangal. The wine list has helpful suggestions from Lebus on good pairings with dishes.
Everything we ordered had a scattering of freshly chopped, dressed cabbage, carrot or onion, and sometimes a heap. It made for a healthy, crunchy meal. Flavours are bold (though the red chillies are only mildly hot), and there's often some sweetness.
Grilled Quail with Honey, Garlic and Spices, and Fresh Rolls with Prawn were other tasty starters, and Whole Sea Bream with Fish Sauce and Galangal was another great main course.
The restaurant was full on a Tuesday night, and apparently there were a few customers downstairs in their basement as well. Mien Tay seems to have found an affordable, relatively healthy formula to win over the squeezed middle of Clappersea to Vietnamese food. A third Mien Tay has just opened in Wellingborough, Northants. I hope they don't expand faster than they can manage.
Mien Tay Battersea, 180 Lavender Hill, SW1 5TQ, tel: 020 7350 0721