Having just spent a weekend in Paris eating a lot of banh mi, you’d think I would’ve satisfied my craving for this bit of East-West sandwich deliciousness. But no, the minute I got back to London, I continued to wonder who sells the stuff here.
Cue Charmaine, who left a comment on my blog, telling me there’s banh mi to be found in Surrey Quays, which a google search revealed is not far from Canada Water station. Finally, my working in Canary Wharf turns out to be convenient to something yummy!
So, after work last Friday, I dragged Jon east on the Jubilee Line to Canada Water, and then it was a quick bus ride down to the Surrey Quays shopping center (I’ve never in my life seen such an enormous Tesco, by the way). Five minutes’ walk later, we were at Banzi.
The place is tiny and nondescript. It’s not a dive, but it’s not much to look at. The dining room’s lone server was doing her best to handle the sudden flood of diners coming in at around 7:30 pm, so Jon and I grabbed our own menus from a pile I spotted in the corner.
I eagerly scanned the menu, and there it was: a whole section of the menu devoted to banh mi, and none cost more than £4.
We slogged through a few forgettable appetizers – a spicy chili fried prawn dish with an unpleasantly-soft coating and a banh xeo that was all sprouts and hardly anything else inside – and then, my wish was fulfilled: a generous serving of grilled pork banh mi. Thick slices of barbecued pork, lots of pickled veg, coriander, cucumber, chili spice, and creamy, slightly-sweet mayonnaise. The baguette was of the par-baked supermarket variety (crispy and hot when hot out of the oven but otherwise too sugary). In one bite, I could taste sweet, salty, spicy, creamy and smoky flavors. The beauty of banh mi.
Banzi’s version was a tad too heavy on the mayo and overall sugariness, but I’ll definitely be back the next time I need my banh mi fix. The place is a bit of a schlepp, but it’s closer than Paris, and it appears there are other worthwhile Vietnamese places in the area. Maybe one of those other places serves banh mi, too.
Banzi Vietnamese restaurant, 237 Lower Road, SE16 2LW; 0207 394 0906. Closest tube station: Canada Water