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By a very well-placed coincidence and with no prior knowledge of what T?t was, myself and some friends happened to have long-overdue spaces secured at Uyen Luu’s Vietnamese Supper Club for this very evening - happy new year indeed. Summer rolls were large, fat and firm; the taught translucent rice paper skin partially concealing plump prawns.
If it being T?t meant this was my annual opportunity to get my chops around some Vietnamese New Year sticky rice cake (banh chung), then thank crikey for the timing, because whilst it didn’t look especially promising, this was my favourite plate. Tender slithers of rump steak cooked with lemongrass and tightly wrapped in betal leaves with a peanut sauce were slender fingers of savoury satisfaction, and the zesty salad platters of carrot, cucumber, mint, poached prawns and pork belly were vibrant, vivid and full of vitality.
A combination of soft pork and prawn manipulated around the end of a stick of sugar cane had all the novelty (to those not already acquainted with these) of a grown up lollipop. The meat of the slow-cooked pork belly in coconut water was a little tough, but the fat was buttery and rich, served with pickled lotus stems with a pixie-like beauty in their miniature seven-holed cross sections.
A chicken and bamboo noodle soup had wonderful soft meat and a delicate, refreshing broth - the tiny slices of red chillies served on a side plate were fruity and hot enough to blow the top of your head off and melt the contents, like a soft boiled egg. Whilst portion sizes need to be more consistent (both my banh chung and pork belly were much smaller than my companions) and perhaps two summer rolls and lollipops served each rather than one (to fill any remaining space in the gut on departure), every course was thoroughly enjoyable and very well received.
An evening hosted by Chef Franck Raymond at his recently-opened French restaurant Augustine Kitchen in Battersea shared the secrets to a handful of salad recipes with a group of snap-happy food bloggers eager to sample the results.


Life is all about balance, and what better way to highlight the light and rejuvenating qualities of a vitamin-packed salad than by contrasting it against glasses of bubbly and an oven dish heavy with gooey cheese-covered potatoes and bacon - the Alpine wonder that is a tartiflette. In the meantime and if Tuesday is just too far away, you'll find the recipe below to have a go yourself. Keep the chopped potatoes in water until you're ready to cook them to prevent discolouration.
Heat the milk and creme fraiche in a saucepan and add the cheese - keep some of the cheese aside to use later.
In the same frying pan you cooked the bacon, saute the potatoes in a little butter or oil until lightly browned.
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A crisp and vibrant cross-section - green from cockscombe, perilla, garlic chives, mint and coriander - revealed itself after the first bite. Served with mung bean, pork belly, thick soy, Vietnamese sausage and pickled leeks, the flavours were strong and unafraid to give you a shake by the jowls.
The meat is eaten first, followed by mastication (but not consumption) of the cane to extract the sweet juices. Their fibre can be pulled into strings as fine as spider silk with your teeth, as demonstrated by the Taiwanese in the know (the rest of us were squealing like the kids with lollipops we were).


A novel flavour and one that grows with every spoonful - at first interpreted as frozen salad. Cast aside preconceptions of limp lettuce and dull dressings, these were salads I would consider over a hunk of flaky slow-cooked meat (maybe), with recipes involving scallop ceviche, duck, puy lentils, Thai flavours, and more. One of these dipped into the pineapple and chilli sauce was light enough to sit very eloquently atop my meat-heavy lunch, and I was very grateful for it. Not to mention the glutinous rice, soft meat and crunchy pickles providing a great texture combination.
But the fatty creaminess of avocado is in fact a great medium for a dessert expected to have similar qualities.
When thinking of dinner options during this dreary time of year, salads tend to feature low on the list - after macaroni cheese, roast chicken, linguine carbonara, dauphinois and cake.
The little ginger biscuits were excellent and I shoved another three in my mouth that were sitting in a bowl by the front door on my way out.



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