James Daw: my new spot for Vietnamese in Shoreditch
The London-based artist/illustrator and Camberwell College of Arts graduate on his new favourite go-to
James Daw uses mixed media and collage to create chopped-up, thrown-down texture. He’s the creative mastermind behind a new immersive installation at Shoreditch’s Hart Hotel titled The Fundamentals of Caring Exhibition, showing as part of the London Design Festival. Daw treats the hotel’s interior as a blank canvas, engaging with everything from its wrap-around video screens to the spiral staircase and the multitude of white breeze blocks that frame it. The little spaces within the blocks are utilised to great effect as individual miniature display cases, adorned with tiny sculptures, creating an army of characters that will speak for the hotel. Together with 4D animator Lisa Sheehan, photographer Anna Rotar and ceramist Will Martin, Daw has concocted an interactive adventure like no other. Here, he shares his new Vietnamese lunchtime discovery.
‘Being an East London resident means I’m in the perfect spot for some of my favourite cuisine: Vietnamese. And there’s no better area than Shoreditch and the various Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. But recently, when working on my art installation, I discovered a new Vietnamese – Huong Viet. Myself and my art assistant Anna, needing some sustenance during the installation process, happened upon this Vietnamese gem by chance, situated just around the corner on Curtain Road. Its bright exterior has a street-food feel and there was even someone cooking up a storm, resplendent in a traditional nón lá Vietnamese conical hat.
Inside, more lights and hats doubling as light fittings, and posters of Vietnam on the walls. We have both spent time in Vietnam and agreed on how authentic it felt, just like the many street restaurants in Hanoi. The menu is extensive and a little overwhelming, as many seem to be in Vietnamese restaurants. But we spied the pancake and knew that was a definite, as well as a mixed noodle dish. I heard the phở was excellent, but the day was quite muggy and we felt a hot soup could maybe fuel the fire.
The noodles were superb, but the pancake was amazing and stuffed full of fresh herbs, the part of Vietnamese cuisine I enjoy the most – that freshness mixed with the hot and sour. We were full and more than satisfied when we spotted the table next to us had just received a giant shell filled with some sort of salad. We both looked at each other and nodded. We are definitely coming back tomorrow for that. Which of course we did. Turns out the shell was filled with a mango and chilli salad and was absolutely delicious. Spicy, bright and sweet with chilled mango.
The staff were super friendly, the menu nice and cheap. We didn’t have alcohol, but most places have a BYOB policy so I will be checking for this next time. Just be careful of the stairs down to the bathroom if you have had a few drinks. It’s quite the vertical drop.
So, from now on, I am moving slightly further south from my usual Kingsland Road hang and making my way through the entire menu at Huong Viet. I am planning various visits, but it really was that good.
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