Brougham Place, Edinburgh
For the first time in ages, we have a couple of visitors – and one of them is Our Favourite Vegan (TM), so it seems like the perfect opportunity to try out a relatively recent addition to Edinburgh’s dining scene. Sen Viet Vegan Restaurant occupies the premises where Passorn Thai Restaurant used to stand, and is now resplendent in a very bright – some might say too bright – shade of yellow. It’s early Friday evening and the place is already pretty full – so full, in fact, that we have to wait a good wee while for our pre-booked table to become available. But we’re not in a rush, so we don’t mind. When we’re finally seated, we waste no time in ordering some bottles of Vietnamese beer. Both North and South Vietnam are represented; I find myself favouring the South, although there’s not a lot in it. Both are clean tasting lagers that make the perfect companion to spicy food.
The friendly staff have already warned us that they only have one chef tonight and that there might be a bit of a delay, but we’re happy to sit and sip and chatter.
The appetisers prove to be exactly what we are hoping for. We’ve ordered two Khai Vị Đặc Biệt (sharing platters), which are generously heaped with a variety of appetisers. There are delightfully chewy chunks of salted and chilli-battered tofu, expertly deep-fried crispy spring rolls, piquant tofu summer rolls, vermicelli grilled betal leaves and Ha Long fried cakes (these are traditionally made using squid, but whatever’s in this vegan adaptation captures the fishy flavour perfectly). The appetisers are accompanied by three different dips, including a peanut-based sauce that is absolutely finger-licking tasty and this is a convenient way to sample a wide range of different flavours and textures.
There’s another wait for the main courses but, once again, when they arrive, they are exceptionally good.
I have chosen the Cà Ri Đậu Hũ – a tofu coconut curry. While it’s really not much to look at, the dish contains chunks of dark tofu, with slow cooked mixed vegetables, tender pieces of potato and sweet potato, onion and garlic, all slow-cooked in coconut cream and lemongrass broth. It’s so good, I have to keep reminding myself not to eat it too quickly. There’s also a bowl of perfectly-cooked sticky rice, which is the ideal accompaniment.
Susan has gone for the Đậu Hũ Kho – a traditional dish that features tofu and mixed vegetables caramelised in a clay pot. Again, it’s absolutely sumptuous, thick and effusive, even though – again – the photos fail to do it justice. The bowls are licked thoroughly clean and we find ourselves too full for pudding.
Based on the food alone, Sen Viet is an unqualified delight – and we’ll certainly be back to see how it fares on nights when they have more than just one chef at work. All in all, Brougham Place – which also boasts Sora Lella Roman Restaurant and Black Rabbit Deli – is fast becoming the essential destination for hungry vegans.