Categories Food&DrinkPosted on

Clouds of Joy: Viet Lounge in Wardour Street

Stop all the clocks, forget everything you thought you knew about Vietnamese street food and get down to Jeff Tan’s Viet Lounge on Wardour Street (south of Shaftesbury Avenue in buzzing Chinatown). If you didn’t know, this cocktail bar is three floors up from Viet Food, where there always seems to be a queue. That’s a good sign if ever there was one. So, stop gawking at a Street Cat named Bob (he and his owner have their pitch nearby) and get upstairs to this calm and tranquil bar, lined with beautiful blue glass windows, giving lie to the fact that you are in the bustling heart of the capital. Launched in May by Jeff Tan, head chef at Hakkasan Mayfair, it seems a winning combination from the off.

Avail yourselves immediately of the cocktail creations of the twinkling Alex Looi (formerly Head Barman at The Dorchester Hotel, Park Chinois and Hakkasan) and his talented team. Sensibly eschewing outlandish ingredients and keeping it simple, Alex has encompassed the spectrum of London palates with canny use of Western bases (whisky, vodka, gin) and cunningly combined them with Vietnamese and other Asian ingredients (yuzu, dragonfruit) to give drinkers the instagrammable cocktails that their hearts desire.

Mind you, it all looked mouth-watering: Alex’s Viet Lounge list features the likes of Voodoo (vodka, Cognac & pear liqueur, peach bitter, homemade clove with anise and Szechuan pepper syrup, lychee juice, raspberry, blackberry & lemongrass), Black Magic (vodka, coffee liqueur, pistachio syrup & homemade coconut milk), Hibiswater Fizz (vodka, plum bitter, homemade hibiscus syrup, aloe vera juice & Champagne) and High Five Mexico (Tequila Blanco, matcha tea syrup, almond syrup, lime juice, cucumber & apple juice). Cocktails range from £8.50 to £12.80.

And the food! Don’t get SEEN started… The food menu was bewildering but fortunately, our lovely waiter was well-informed and answered all our questions, talking us through Jeff Tan’s interesting new range of Vietnamese small plates that perfectly complement the dynamic new drinks list. These include Octopus salsa grilled with homemade dressing (scrumptious); Sweet corn crab balls grilled with homemade chili sauce; Fresh water prawns grilled with garlic in vinegar lemongrass dressing; Hanoi beef braised with homemade fish sauce, bone marrow, Black pepper crumble and Crispy tomato wrapped with bacon and mint. Small plates range from £4.80 to £8.80. We chose sweetcorn, beef and pork fritters while our lovely waiter chose two beef dishes for us, the heartiness of which complemented the lightness of the cocktails. Octopus, prawns, fresh herbs… That’s the keynote at Viet Lounge – freshness. It was at once hearty, spicy and delightfully tasty. Our cocktails were a Purple Dragon (preview cocktail alert!) Sky is the Limit (whisky-based heaven!) and the splendidly refreshing Skidoo (elderflower and champagne).

A delightful party of Vietnamese ladies were nearby, enjoying the cocktails and food as much as SEEN and her guest were. We loved it – good food, fabulous cocktails, great service that makes you feel very welcome and a wonderful atmosphere, helped along by the charismatic Alex and his balletic mixing, not least with the Purple Dragon; nitrogen clouds emitted from this colourful concoction to the joy of all. You could stay all evening, or pop in for a drink and one or two little plates. It elevates street food to another level (literally and metaphorically). SEEN will certainly be visiting again.

Viet Lounge
34-36 Wardour Street