Monday, 14 March 2011

London - Cafe Bay

75 Denmark Hill
Camberwell, 

London SE5 8RS

Banh mi - £2.80 £3.
Cafe Bay on Urbanspoon

Cafe Bay is exactly the sort of cafe that you would expect to find between the gentrifying ends of Camberwell and Brixton: folksy exterior (ooh, look at that whimsical table in the window), plenty of exposed wood inside, and nothing so recherche as a paper menu. Of the three blackboards dominating the left-hand wall, only the one with the Vietnamese sandwiches sets apart this arty-yuppie-hipster-indie place from the other overpriced, undernourished, and (largely) underwhelming caffs elsewhere in the area (hi, there, Johansson's and your tiny open smoked salmon sandwiches for almost a fiver!).

At Cafe Bay, a fiver would get you almost two substantially sized, fresh and crunchy baguettes containing slices of marinaded meat (beef, chicken, pork, prawns or tofu) amongst equally interesting veggies that are certainly not an uninspired afterthought. I chose the beef skewer banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), which came with cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon (East Asian radish), chillies and coriander.  All of those ingredients except the daikon were excellent, and had the daikon been put into my sandwich then I'm sure it would have been excellent, too. Although the banh mi was not traditional - as well as the missing daikon, there was also no sign of the spicy mayonnaise that banh mi always have - it merged distinct flavours and textures into one delicious sandwich.

The beef skewer was a juicy and spiced mince kebab. Surrounding it were ever-so-slightly vinegary strips of carrot, a lot of sliced red chillies, and a long stalk of coriander. Instead of mayonnaise, there was a sweet and spicy chilli jelly that blended nicely with the beef's flavours and the carrots' vinegar. Should you ever be peckish or starving on your way to Brixton, Cafe Bay provides a nice stop-off point with food that punches far above its price category.

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