I write this on a bitterly cold Monday morning which, if the media are to be believed, is the most depressing of the year. How very depressing of them to inform us of this. I was in a good mood until about twenty minutes ago; I’d put a suit on for an important day with the real job, eaten a very small breakfast, and headed into the office. En route I had a flick through my phone. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. It was the latter which did it. A thread came up with people discussing ‘personal brands’, which I believe to explain the personal accounts of those not subjected to enough attention as a child. Is there a more repellent term? It implies the content is manufactured; a contorted marketing ploy to appear more woke, more gammon, more gay, more straight, more left, more right to appeal to a certain group of followers (another term which riles me. Twitter is not a cult, despite what some would have you believe). Remember the episode of Black Mirror where the women on the way to the wedding collects scores based on how strangers perceive her? Social media is doing that to us. We are losing the human. It’s all smoke and mirrors. An abyss of cancel culture, led by those working on their personal brands during the day and plotting the downfall of the popular kids who bullied them at senior school during the night. And then there is those who think that their face need to be in every picture, every Instagram story. Don’t start me on those. It’s those wankers that are killing the planet.
On the flip of this is Oliver. You don’t know who Oliver is, but suffice to say he is a personal brand I can get behind, and he is so unassuming, so quietly driven, that he has no idea what personal brand means. Right now Oliver is Vietnamese Street Kitchen, both branches; the one in Brindley Place and this, a shiny new one in Resorts World. He slingshots to our table from another to say hi, telling us how he’s been up since well before dawn to prep the dough for the bao, get over to Brindley, then here. He takes our drinks order, brings our drinks, takes the food order and then disappears to help cook the food. This is not a joke. Oliver is now in the kitchen.
I should point out that we are not left alone; there are other staff here and they do a fine job of keeping the beer on steady rotation. When the food does arrive it comes in waves, mostly hand-delivered by yes, you’ve guessed it. And it’s mostly very good. Earnest cooking from the heart, which is all I ever want but seldom see. Lightly cooked prawns have it all on show in the see-through PVC mac that is the summer roll, whilst chicken wings have been taken for a roll in thick sauce that starts hot with chilli and ends with the sweetness of palm sugar. Both of these starters are very nice, as were the fried dumplings stuffed with a dice of vegetables that come alive when dredged through a soy based sauce under a canopy of herbs. Three of these snacks for fifteen quid is tremendous value. If you’re reading this Oliver, charge more. Though I doubt he is; he’s probably brewing the beer, or catching the fish for tonight’s service.
I’ll address the pho here and then finish on a high point. I don’t like it. The beef has that boiled texture of being taken to a temperature too high, whilst the stock is too light on flavour for my liking. I tell Oliver this and in his defence he makes a very valid arguement involving the regional varities of Pho and staying true to his family’s style. What I do like are strips of pork belly that manage that perfect point of crispy skin and soft interior, and even more than that the beef curry so fragrant with lemongrass. The meat falls off the bone, the sauce just thick enough to hold on to edges of the rice. It’s glorious.
As touched on, prices are super fair with any sensible couple getting away with less than £25 a head. We are not sensible. I liked it here. I like what they are doing and I like how they are going about it. It’s no secret that neither sites have been particularly kind to independents, so it’s a big gamble to go from Brindley Place to a second site in Resorts World within a year of opening. But I think they’ll be fine. The owner is a superstar who bleeds hospitality; exactly the type of personal brand the world needs. Should you see Oliver please say hi and tell him I’ll be back real soon.
We took an A2B because we only ever take A2B