If you believe in the multiverse theory there’s another version of reality where I’m a minor celebrity from a long-running BBC drama, and Matt Tebbutt is currently asking me what my “food heaven” would be. But if you believe in the multiverse theory there’s also a version where I’m answering “Weetabix sandwiches” rather than jumping on the desk while screaming “NOODLES”. It would be an understatement of galactic proportions to say that I like a noodle. Noodles are versatile, they’re comforting and, least importantly, they’re healthy. So it seems appropriate to kick off proceedings with a trip to what is, amazingly, only Glasgow’s second Vietnamese restaurant. For too long the Hanoi Bike Shop in Ruthven Lane has been the sole source of authentic pho, bhan mi and summer rolls for the noodle-oriented Glaswegian. In fact at the time of writing, their website proudly announces that they’re Glasgow’s only Vietnamese restaurant. No more.
As a noodle enthusiast you might expect that I’d have my finger on the pulse of all Glasgow-based noodle developments. I must confess, however, that Non Viet somehow managed to fly under my radar for a good 6 months after opening at the far end of Sauchiehall Street in December 2016. Within 2 days of hearing about it, however, I was en route. The wander up Sauchiehall Street is always eventful. The dingy pedestrian precinct at the lower end gives way to the noise and bustle of its student core. And for all its grimy urbanity you’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants here. Non Viet is at number 536 on the ground floor, next to the entrance to Albany Chambers. The glass front and slick black signage suggest something a little more serious than the whimsy of Hanoi Bike Shop. Once inside though you’ll find that the tone is somewhat similar: Vespas hang incongruously from the ceiling and the ever-present communist iconography is employed as a decorative theme. Seating is what I’d call “boothy”: chunky wooden tables pushed against the wall with high-backed leather chairs creating the cosy, semi-private illusion of a booth.
But you can’t eat furniture. So what of the food? Non Viet boasts that theirs is “authentic Vietnamese cuisine”, a claim that will always put you in direct conflict with at least one TripAdvisor know-all who’s been to Vietnam thank you very much. Well, I have been to Vietnam and it seems pretty authentic to me. Uncharacteristically for this regular Friday lunchtime jaunt we decided to share our starters.
Tofu summer rolls and spring rolls with pork, crab and prawn appeared in good time. The summer rolls packed a lot in and were accompanied by a thick dipping sauce that seemed to be made from tamarind. The sauce was pungent but didn’t completely take over and the fragrant herbs in the summer rolls packed a punch of their own. The spring rolls were reassuringly gnarly which gave me confidence before I’d taken a bite that they were made on site. They had a great crunch and the filling was meaty and full of flavour. My only criticism is that they were slightly greasy where the wrapper had absorbed some oil. It wasn’t enough to put us off though and these morsels were quickly dispatched.
The main courses were next. Being a noodlist it had to be phở. It’s perhaps my actual food heaven: a deeply flavoursome but light stock, springy rice noodles, rare beef thinly sliced and gently poached by the beefy liquor, and a bunch of fragrant herbs with a slice of lime to lift it. When I ordered, the waiter asked if I’d like it spicy and I said yes, which, with hindsight, was a mistake. I do like some spice but in this instance it was provided by a film of chilli oil which detracted from the clean-tasting broth for the first few spoonfuls. You live and learn.
Apart from this slight misstep it was a very tasty phở. It’s a dish that lives and dies on the quality of the broth and Non Viet clearly take theirs seriously. My dining companion ordered chargrilled chicken which came served on top of rice noodles with a side salad and a dipping sauce. It seemed a strange combination to me but I was assured that it tasted good so who am I to argue?
Non Viet’s lunch menu isn’t the standard two course fixed price variety that you find in most restaurants. It’s a stripped down a la carte but still with a wide variety of options. If you want to come in and spend £6 on a banh mi you can do that, and I probably will at some point. With two soft drinks our bill came to £27 which is exactly what I’d expect to pay for 2 courses of a Friday lunch time. I now have a source of good phở within walking distance of my office and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
536 Sauchiehall Street
0141 332 2975
Quick and friendly service
Great variety on the lunch menu
Really good value
Slightly oily spring rolls
Chilli oil detracted from the broth