Writing is frequently a dejecting and profitless pursuit for me. I write several thousands of words every week, a few hundred of which will likely never be read by anyone but me. I write reviews much like the ones posted below in the hope of elbowing publications into giving me regular commissions, although rarely does this work. Thus what I’m left with are many bespoke articles that are never to see the light of day. But not these reviews. They were written for an upstarting website focusing on life in London, the editor of which was presumably unimpressed with my contributions. So lest they wind up on the web elsewhere under somebody else’s name (unlikely perhaps, but this has happened to my writing before) I thought that it was best to post them here first.
Song Que Vietnamese Restaurant Review | 34 Kingsland Rd, London
Being pushy will get you nowhere at Song Que, where you invariably have to wait for a table, but never for your food to arrive. With a line of hungry people stretching almost as far back as the street, customers just have to be patient and put up with those who struggle to wrap their minds around the concept of waiting.
Such people will always meet the wrath of the notoriously peevish waiters, who come across like students of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, signalling bumptious customers to the back of the line as if there’ll be no soup for them. It’s no exaggeration that during my last visit to Song Que I made sure I wore a tie, not to impress my dining partner, but rather to make a good impression on the staff: I certainly didn’t want to be in their bad books.
It must have worked, too, because the food was fantastic. The crispy noodles were particularly delicious, as were the chilli-laden salads and vegetable sour soup—although the flank pho (tripe stewed in tripe juice, essentially) certainly isn’t for the unadventurous.
With a confusing horse portrait on the wall, the dining conditions are a little odd, but inoffensive nevertheless. In fact it almost feels as if you’re eating in somebody’s living room, which might explain the speed at which I was fed through the restaurant. I had, unbelievably, barely touched my chair before I was outside the building again, having somehow both eaten and paid for my food.
But while the staff can only be described as more efficient than friendly, for its cheap prices and quality food—subtly spiced, perfectly cooked and always flavoursome—Song Que is possibly the best restaurant of all the much-lauded Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road.
The Museum of Childhood | Cambridge Heath Rd, London
If our parents had believed us when we had told them that one day the toys advertised on television—the ones that we needed so desperately—would be considered a part of history, then every child in Britain would have owned a Tracy Island or a Furby or a Commodore 64. All of these toys have made it into the Museum of Childhood, which is almost less of an educational experience and more of an excuse to remember all the toys you were never allowed to have as kids.
Some toys in the museum are in fact so old that one might assume that they hail from the era before children had been invented: cup and stick, stick and wheel, stick and stick. But it’s the toys that we remember from our own childhoods that make the museum such a delightful ramble through the past.
Book Mongers | 439 Coldharbour Ln, London
For every out of print book you could ever hope to find, plus so much more, the best second hand book shop in London has to be the always welcoming Book Mongers in Brixton: a sort of Xanadu for those who enjoy enthusing over books and a bargain.