PROFILED BY DE GROOTS MEDIA
Van Mai, which is housed in an old double-fronted building, is big, with white tiled floors and mottled yellow walls with photographs and mementoes of Vietnam. The old chandeliers, with only one energy-efficient globe in each of them, look rather rakish. The mural of a tropical sunset looks a bit like wishful thinking.
But no one is here for the beauty of the décor. In a street that is full of cheap, cheerful, nourishing Vietnamese meals, Van Mai fits in very comfortably. The service is good – fast and friendly. The menu is remarkably extensive, so for those bewildered by the choices, the simplest thing to do is to choose from the specials on the front of the menu, or those written on the wall, or those on the menu card. Lots of specials, in other words. The mixed spring rolls, served with two kinds of mint and lettuce as well as a dipping sauce, are not among the specials, but they’re a good way to begin. Squid is good here, and the stuffed fried chicken wings are full of lively meat and vegetable flavours. Although most people bring their own wine, there is a small and to-the-point wine list at reasonable prices, and a decent selection of beer, also at very fair prices.