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Since my first review of Namo Restaurant well over a year ago, it has gone from strength to strength, continuing to serve a dedicated following of locals, as well as diners from further afield. Holding true to its authentic cuisine, the restaurant is now serving up some traditional dishes, but with a modern twist.
It was a warm evening, so we chose to sit in the garden area, next to a large, fat Buddha statue, although the roof was closed (it comes off Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings). The charming, cosy interior features colourful yellow, pink, orange, and red lanterns, quirky mismatched furniture and pretty, flickering candles.
We began by ordering a lemon cocktail with ginger. In a tall glass with big chunks of ice, it was more like a punch and very refreshing. Draft Japanese Asahi in frozen glasses being served to a neighbouring table looked like another good choice, although my husband plumped for the hoppy Vietnamese Hue Beer (Tiger Beer from Singapore is also available). Some of the drinks on the menu have a distinctly British flavour, such as home made lemonade, cloudy Bramley apple juice and pear and ginger from Kent. A starter of chargrilled mackerel bits with Vietnamese wind-dried chorizo (£5.50), one of the innovative specials, was a superb, imaginative combination.
From the regular menu, we picked Muc rang muoi – Chilli crispy squid with garlic & chilli (£5). Cooked perfectly in a light and crispy batter, it was even better dipped in chilli sauce. Namo’s near neighbour, the wonderful wine shop, Bottle Apostle, which I also reviewed nearly a year ago have helped Namo in their revamp by creating and supplying a completely new wine list. The house Shiraz was served a little too warm, and the house Chenin Blanc from South Africa was less dry than described, with a pleasing sweet character of tropical fruits and fig.
Eschewing the delicious fish and seafood dishes simply because it was a balmy July evening and many of them are hot and spicy with rich sauces, we plumped instead for Goi Tom – a traditional southern beef salad with sesame, chilli & mint (£6.90) and – from the specials – Saigon slow-cooked pork with honey and ginger and egg (£7.90). Both were superb, and the pork so rich and tender that we actually mistook it for lamb. We ate them with an exquisite bundle of coconut rice with vegetable in lotus leaf (£3.90), known as Com thap cam.
The only disappointment was an adequate but rather bland Rau nuong – a small plate of chargrilled aubergine, peppers and sweet potato with a dollop of satay sauce. We didn’t go for dessert but the special was a nod to British cuisine – a warm chocolate and ginger brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream. Other options on the menu were more Vietnamese in flavour, such as banana fritters or mango spring rolls and coconut ice cream.
Smiling owner Linh, whose family set up Namo’s big sister, the hugely successful Huong Viet in Dalston, presides over a young and friendly Vietnamese team. She describes how she came over with her father as one of the Vietnamese boat people when she was eight. Laughing, Linh says that they settled in Hackney because it was the only borough that would have them. She says her family would never dream of leaving now, which is good news for all her happy, dedicated customers.
Namo 178 Victoria Park Road Village E9 7HD
Tel : 0208 533 0639
Opening times – Lunch Thursday to Sunday 12.30pm to 3.30pm & evening 5.30om to 11.00pm
Group bookings welcome for up to 40 diners & 25 covers available in the garden all year round.