Mien Tay: where a bowl of noodles gave me a moment

In a previous half-life before this blog, my former housemates and I would frequent Mien Tay on Lavender Hill. This cheap and cheery hole-in-the-wall was quite a trek from where we lived but our intense craving for good Vietnamese would will us to go. When they had a BYOB policy (which ceased around Fall 2011), it served as our own black hole of verbal diarrhoea when girly woes were as lethal as the bottles of inebriation we’d consume. Nobody judged us as we gorged on noodles, wept about life and chugged away like sailors. 
Mien Tay visits became less frequent when our house contract ended and we had to go separate ways. Coincidentally after moving out, things finally fell into place for each of us – S is now happily married, H is a proud  homeowner in Newcastle, K has finished a degree, and I have been a very, very, very blessed lady. Oh, how far we’ve come and all that jazz.
Few months ago, on an aggressively wet Spring day, I found myself longing for something warm and comfortable so I hauled a couple of friends to back to Mien Tay. I guess I didn’t clock in that inevitably, this cheery little place would change a bit, too. 
We were greeted by a type of service that was more huff-and-puff than the cheeky-and-cheery I was accustomed to. I shrugged it off and blamed it on the rain. But as we went along with our orders, the servers just seemed a bit disinterested and it took them forever to grab when it wasn’t a particularly busy day. 

The spicy soft shell crab (£8.30) was more batter than crab meat. Half of it seemed to have been dipped in salt whilst the other half begged for seasoning.

The chargrilled quail (£6.20) was cooked well; it was very succulent for such a small bird. But it didn’t blow my mind the way it stopped my tears many years ago.

Most of my friends ordered pho and said they’ve had better. Hmm. Has Mien Tay lost its magic?

My usual Vietnamese staple, bun thit nuong (£7) came and finally, things were right again. It looked, smelled, and most importantly, tasted the way I remember. The (room temperature) noodles were firm (even after soaking the nuoc cham), veggies were crunchy and fresh, pork was beautifully cooked. On a rainy day like that, it was exactly what you needed.

After our meal, a server came with plates of orange segments and our bill. It may not be the cheery restaurant it once was but at least, it’s still very cheap.

I looked over our old table by the corner (near the bar, but of course) and a gloomy wave of nostalgia washed over me. I miss S, H & K, but I’m quite convinced those days of lambasting life prepped us for the happiness we now have. This place may not be the same, but then so are we. Perhaps the magic of Mien Tay lies in the fact that it’s comfortable and dependable. Sure, you’d have a few hits and misses every so often (our visit was a bit more of a miss), but you know it’s just around the corner to give you some sort of comfort – like a good friend at any given day.

Mien Tay – Battersea
180 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London SW11 5TQ | +44(0)20 7350 0721
Mien Tay on Urbanspoon

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