I can’t say that Vietnamese cuisine was ever something I thought about trying. Even if I had wanted to, Glasgow had not a restaurant in sight that sold Vietnamese food of any kind. Considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, you’d think that someone would’ve opened a restaurant in Glasgow, but nothing was appearing on the scene. That is, until late 2012, when The Hanoi Bike Shop appeared in the former Stravaigin 2 on Ruthven Lane.
The restaurant, which won The List’s Best Newcomer Award of 2012, has been thriving ever since it’s opening late last year. It’s still difficult to get a table in here at night if you’re just walking in without a booking, and having visited last week for the first time, I can definitely see why. From the moment I walked into the downstairs dining area and was hit by the scents coming from the open kitchen, I knew I was going to enjoy it here.
The waitress who was serving us on the night couldn’t have been more pleasant. She obviously knew exactly what she was talking about and was so helpful. She asked us if it was our first time visiting, which it was, and so she asked if we’d like her to quickly run through the menu. She explained that the top section are small, sharing dishes, the bottom section are more substantial main courses, and the far right section is a list of different Pho. The Pho, a vietnamese delicacy which is basically a broth with meat, herbs and spices, looked incredibly tempting so I ordered Pho Bo, the classic beef flavoured broth, and the pork meatballs with crispy pork belly for my starter. Colin ordered a chicken starter, and then saw on the Specials board that they had a Chicken and Potato Curry, which sounded delicious, and so ordered that for his main. The food comes out in HBS when it is ready, not necessarily in the order you expect to get it, and so you could get both your courses at once, or your main before your starter. I think this idea is great, as it helps to keep the food hot and doesn’t have it sitting about waiting on service.
Whilst waiting, I had prawn crackers with a gorgeous peanut and chilli dip. One server then brought out a chilli and lemongrass oil, and told us we could add it to the food for seasoning but to try it first as it is very hot. She most certainly wasn’t kidding. I tried a splash of it and I thought my mouth was going to just burst into flames. Don’t underestimate that oil! Colin quite liked it and ended up adding it to his jasmine rice when it came out; he’s a braver man than me.
The food then came out, and what delicious food it was. The pork meatballs were so flavoursome and juicy, as was the pork belly. The plate also had well seasoned vermicelli noodles and a lovely oil. Colin’s chicken salad starter looked and tasted delicious. The curry and the Pho came out shortly afterwards, and the table quickly became very full with a delicious feast of Vietnamese cuisine. Everything was absolutely delicious, especially that Pho. It’s brought out with a small side plate of seasonings, such as fresh coriander and chilli, so you can make your Pho as weak or as strong as you like. If we needed anything at any point, our waitress was more than happy to help, which I appreciated as I had a few questions about a cuisine I’d never eaten. The chopsticks were an exciting prospect, as I’ve never eaten with them before, but I learned quickly. For those of you who cannot cope with the prospect of chopsticks, the staff are more than happy to bring out normal cutlery for you.
All in all a fantastic dining experience. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this place, but I can safely recommend it in the knowledge that they do exceptional food, and I will certainly be back here again and again, especially as they gave me a Pho card (Buy 8, get a 9th free!)