I was in Glasgow for some school events and after a rewarding day spent encouraging young people to write fiction, my thoughts inevitably turned to my evening meal and I decided that what I was really in the mood for was noodles. So I took a stroll along the trendy Byers Road area of the city, eyes peeled and after a little while, I spotted a sign that read Hanoi Bike Shop and I wondered if this might be the kind of thing I was looking for. Then I spotted another sign that invited me to ‘get my noodle on’ and decided that I had hit paydirt. It turned out I had called at a fortuitous date because this being the first Tuesday of the month, it was Phat Phuc (yeah, I know, I know, but we’ll let them away with that, right?) Tonight there’s a set menu, offering four courses for the all-in price of £16.95. So in I went and down I sat and looking around, I liked what I was seeing.
The Hanoi Bike Shop advertises itself as a Vietnamese canteen. The interior is intimate, quirky and sure enough, the walls and ceiling are adorned with bits of bicycle, spanners , spokes and garish ethnic designs. A sound system pumps out classic rock songs at just the right volume. The service is prompt and the three smaller courses arrive pretty much all together, allowing me to dip in and out, marvelling at the resulting explosions of flavour.
The dishes comprise Goi Cuon (black pepper pork belly rice paper rolls with gem lettuce, pickles and nuoc cham): Sup Da (a broth made with chicken, coconut and lemongrass, replete with vermiccelli noodles, bean sprouts, coriander and crispy shallots): and Banh Gao (red dragon rice noodle cakes with spring onion and sesame seeds). Sounds good, right? – and happily each dish is every bit as delicious as you could reasonably expect – the broth is particularly good, thick, salty and bowl-lickingly satisfying. Just when I think it can’t get much better than this, along comes the main dish, Mi An Ot (salt and chilli shrimp and pork belly served on glass noodle salad with herbs and shallot) and I’m truly in noodle heaven. I wash it down with a bottle of Saigon beer and the whole shooting match comes in at around twenty pounds, which represents excellent value for money.
Quibbles? Well, only that you are expected to eat with chopsticks, something I’m spectacularly poor at. I’m sure I could have asked for a fork, but looking around, everyone else was just getting on with it, so I gave it my best shot and acquitted myself well enough, I think. I’ve never actually visited Vietnam, so I can’t honestly say how authentic the food was, only that it was exactly what I was looking for on this Tuesday evening. Afterwards I felt pleasantly full and the next time I’m in this neck of the woods, I will certainly call in again to get my noodle craving spectacularly catered for.
If you like noodles, you’ll love the Hanoi Bike Shop. Try it out and if it happens to be the first Tuesday of the month, you’re in luck.