Published on June 3rd, 2015 | by Ben Southwood0
MOC Kitchen, Charing Cross
Summary: Moc Kitchen provides a solid meal at a solid price right in the centre of town
Generally I think that the two most important things about a restaurant are its food and how much the food costs. Service and ambience and decor are all well and good, but they can’t make a meal enjoyable if the food is eye-wateringly expensive and inedible. But—at least for me until this moment—I’d underrated the importance of location. There are a ton of great restaurants in far-off Hackney, or Portobello Road. But realistically, I’m not ever going to be there. A five star restaurant there is worth less to me than a decent, fairly-priced spot off a major thoroughfare.
Moc Kitchen is a small Vietnamese underneath Charing Cross station, a stone’s throw from Embankment tube, next door to Players (that bar with a piano open till late) and opposite Heaven (a cheesy club). There are actually two Moc Kitchens, on either side of the little pedestrianised cobbled road it lives on, but the other one, on Heaven’s side, was closed when I went at seven-ish, so I figure it’s for the busier lunch trade. What makes Moc Kitchen good is that it’s a decent place, and it’s right near somewhere you might be. All of the other restaurants on or off Villiers Street (that little slope connecting the Strand with Embankment) seem to be fairly rubbish, so its existence is welcome.
The other customers looked reassuringly Vietnamese when I entered, and the food was a fairly down-the-line selection of food I’ve seen on Viet menus before. My favourite thing about the cuisine of Indochina is the French-South East Asian fusion—I can’t resist an Asian take on quail or frogs’ legs—and this was there. Indeed the quail I had was extremely flavourful; it tasted wild rather than farmed as quail tend to be nowadays. The best dish was, we agreed, monkfish sizzling in a cast iron pan with spring onions and green chillies. It tasted of butter and coconut cream, and it was firm, tender and meaty. Very satisfying.
My least favourite dish was catfish, probably a bit of a gamble. As usual, it came with the bones in the middle—which for me is a feature rather than a bug—but it tasted a bit too much like tinned tuna for my taste, despite the ample sweet sauce bath it sat in. The other starter, a green papaya salad with prawn, was good, but not quite the standard of that you can get from Thai restaurants like Som Saa, KaoSarn and The Begging Bowl. I know that Westerners like mild food but this gave our decadent tastebuds too much succour; and the peanuts on top were strangely sweet.
Overall Moc Kitchen is not my absolute favourite Vietnamese eatery in town, but most of those are way out in places I rarely ever find myself in. They are useless to me. Whereas Moc Kitchen provides a solid meal at a solid price right in the centre of town. Need a quick bite before you get on a train or a tube? Why not pop along.
MOC Kitchen, The Arches, Villers St, WC2N 6NGShare This Post