Restaurant review: Thanh’s Bistro

By - Thursday 6th February, 2014

Thanh’s Bistro provides food-lover Sam Hill a Vietnamese extravaganza to banish the January blues

Thanh’s Bistro. 56 Lower Addiscombe Road, Croydon, CR0 6AA. Telephone 0208 4054308.

Time from East Croydon station  11 minutes

Banh Xeo, a Vietnamese savoury pancake filled with prawns. Image taken by Sam Hill.

With such a cold and rainy start to the year it’s tempting for every meal to be the culinary equivalent of an enveloping hug to reassure and warm the soul. But this is often coupled with the contradictory urge to refresh or even detoxify after a winter of overindulgence. Luckily Thanh’s Bistro can fulfil both of these desires with its intriguing menu of Vietnamese classics.

This modest bistro is an Addiscombe favourite that has been serving up fresh and vibrant Vietnamese food for the past eight years. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday 6pm-11pm and is a very short walk from East Croydon station. I’ve lived only a few strides away for seven of those eight years and it’s a travesty that I hadn’t been there until tonight. We received a very warm welcome and were helped through the menu by our friendly waiter.

At first glance the menu seems straightforward, but delve deeper and there are plenty of difficult choices to make. The dishes are all tempting and it would be easy to make up a whole meal from just the starters, soups and salads. Tonight we started our Vietnamese adventure with a small selection of starters. Summer rolls bring a reminder of warmer months, the soft translucent rice paper wrappers are stuffed with crisp vegetables, herbs, nutty vermicelli and soft lumps of tofu which have been marinated in something utterly delicious.

The fish cakes are firm-textured but light, with a crisp breadcrumb coating and fragrant hints of lemongrass and spring onion. The hot and sour chicken soup gives me the hug I crave, the bowl of broth is the perfect balance of sour tamarind and slow burning chilli, loaded with chunks of chicken, mushroom and crisp vegetables, and is deeply satisfying.

For cooking of this quality and generosity it really feels like a bargain

For mains you can choose from a selection of curries, noodle dishes, meat and a myriad of fish options but I opt for something a little different. Banh Xeo is a thin crispy pancake filled with plump king prawns, chicken and bean sprouts. On the side is a shredded salad of cabbage, cucumber and carrot, a tangy dressing and more fresh mint and coriander. There is a do-it-yourself feel to eating this dish and spearing a juicy prawn, a leaf of mint and a drizzle of the salty dressing creates a perfect mouthful.

It’s difficult to describe these dishes here without using the word fresh. Crisp vegetables, mint and coriander are the focus of the food and the meal leaves me full and satisfied but also refreshed.

The restaurant is BYOB and as such doesn’t have its own wine list, but does have a large selection of juices and soft drinks. If you are in the mood for something stronger there is a number of off licences and a supermarket close by for you to pick up a bottle on your way. Thanh’s charges a £1 corkage fee for bringing your own. Given the size of the restaurant it’s advisable to book on a Friday or Saturday night.

Our meal for two, which included soft drinks, starters and mains, plus corkage for our BYOB but excluding a service charge came to £38. For cooking of this quality and generosity it really feels like a bargain. I think this local gem will get be getting two more regulars.

Sam Hill

Sam Hill

Sam grew up in rural Dorset where he developed an obsessive interest in food and drink. He studied chemistry in London, whilst enjoying as much of London eclectic food cultures, breweries and restaurants as possible. For the past seven years he has enjoyed exploring and blogging about Croydon's culinary landscape.

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  • Anne Giles

    I am feeling quite hungry now. It sounds absolutely delightful.

    • Sam Hill

      Hi Anne, It really is a great place to go. What I didn’t mention in the review was the range of fish dishes on offer. There are quite a few. We will be trying to work our way through the menu over the coming months.

  • George Harfleet

    I love Thai, Chinese and Indian food but have not yet sampled Vietnamese cuisine. Your report means that I shall simply have to find such a restaurant sooner than later. As I no longer live in Croydon I’ll have to let my fingers do the walking!

    • Sam Hill

      Hi George, If you love Thai then you will love Vietnamese. They share many of the same flavours and ingredients but as with most cuisines it’s the funny little details that set it apart and make it special.