Wine list launch at Mien Tay, Battersea

Can you match wine with Vietnamese food? I was sceptical. It would take some skill to find wines capable of standing up against all those strong flavours but Willie Lebus from Bibendum has managed it, very well.

Willie has been working with Mien Tay to produce their new (and first) wine list, launching in October. This means that BYO will be phased out after a month or so but all the wines are extremely good value and as Willie pointed out, customers will be able to enjoy a wine that actually works with the food rather than dodging the various pitfalls involved in bringing your own.

The food at Mien Tay makes you happy to be alive. It blows the cobwebs away. We started with an appetiser of deep-fried bass, beautifully presented; individual mouthfuls tangled with chilli, bean sprouts and spring onion shreds, heavily scented with ginger. When the meat was gone, our hosts invited us to try the fried bones so I snapped off a piece of backbone: gelatinous and full of extra flavour.

A steamed bass with ginger, spring onion and soy was, we couldn’t believe, even better and so perfectly cooked it drew gasps of admiration. This was our first food and wine match and the point where I ate my words; the Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio had enough acidity to cope with the salt of the sauce but no face-puckering sourness. These are quality wines, first and foremost.

Fresh mango salad with dried beef was astonishing. Chewy jerky-like shreds tossed with slightly under-ripe mango was salty and sweet, juicy with lime and fish sauce, exploding with aniseedy Thai basil flavour. A more perfect mix of textures can surely not exist; chew from the meat, soft fruit, crunchy peanuts. At one point the poor waitress thought we’d finished and attempted to clear the plate away. That didn’t happen twice. I thought that the matched wine however (my only criticism of the wine all night) ‘Picpoul de Pinet’ was overshadowed by the mighty salad, as much of the lemon zestyness and Mediterranean fruit flavours were lost.

A green papaya salad in the same style was even better than the mango version; a lamb dish thrummed with fragrant lemongrass and salt and pepper squid came cased in a greaseless batter, burning mouths which couldn’t wait to gobble it up. Spring rolls were fried with the same skill and accompanied by fresh parilla leaves (shiso), which I adore. We tried to describe their flavour – like a cross between mint, aniseed and oregano.

I’m still a total novice when it comes to writing about wine but what I can say is that almost all we tried slipped down a treat without jarring, which is a pretty amazing achievement considering the force of those flavours – testament to Willie’s skill. I didn’t get to try all of them because after 3 glasses of introductory Prosecco, 5 whites, a rosé and a sherry (try it with the frog’s legs) I had to leave for fear of slumping under the table. There were another four reds to go. It’s late, you’re in a restaurant wearing a conical Vietnamese hat, your face is red, your writing is barely legible any more, you have an early meeting the next morning. It’s time to go home.

I am confident though, that the reds would have gone down just as easily, especially when matched with dishes like stir-fried goat with galangal and grilled quail with honey, garlic and spices. As I’ve said, the wine prices are as appealing as those of the food which reflects the restaurant’s lack of pretension and generous hospitality. A glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for example (elegant gooseberry flavours) costs £3.25 for a glass, £5.50 for a 250ml carafe and £14.50 for a 75cl bottle. The most expensive bottle on our list was a New Zealand Pinot Noir at £20.

I love this restaurant, it’s almost perfect. Most of the food and wine is hard to fault; the people are just really nice; it’s cheap; it’s in South London; it’s, it’s…oh, just go.

Mien Tay
180 Lavender Hill
SW11 5TQ
Tel: 020 7350 0721

Thanks to Chris for the slightly scary iphone picture of the fried fish.

The wine list is available from October. I was invited to a preview.

Category: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , 18 comments »

18 Responses to “Wine list launch at Mien Tay, Battersea”

  1. Mr Noodles

    It’s a shame you didn’t stay for the reds, as it would’ve been good to find what dishes would’ve matched red wine. Whilst I love red wine, I would normally go with beer or white wine when eating Vietnamese. I mean four more reds couldn’t have done that much harm!

  2. Helen

    I absolutely love your attitude – you’re probably right you know, it wouldn’t have made that much difference. I remember feeling very certain at the time though but then that’s drunkeness for you! I am also very curious but there were a few other bloggers there so hopefully they can enlighten us!

  3. Kavey

    I am so Pooed that I was too poorly to attend.

  4. TheWinesleuth

    Wow, you are fast! I haven’t even looked at the pics from last nite. I stayed til the bitter end and I have to say, the whites are better in general, not that reds won’t work but I find it is difficult to get them to work as well as the whites with the food.

  5. Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours

    I have great notes for the first half of the evening and then it all sort of slid. I love the food and sherry pairing.

    It was wonderful, best food and wine I have had for ages. It was great to be on the same table as Willie too.

    I am delighted have discovered a voucher for 25% off food and a free bottle on wine in my bag so will be returning very very soon.

    And I wore my hat home on the bus…

  6. Krista

    Great review Helen. I am really sorry for intoxicating you, your list of consumed drinks does sound quite excessive now I see it! Pleased you enjoyed the evening.

    WineSleuth – we wanted to have some reds in there for those who prefer it but I agree with white and sherry being the winners, I’d drink the sherry all night.
    Kavey – happy to arrange for you when the list launches, fingers crossed mid October.
    Helen – execellent work wearing the hat home on the bus! hilarious! I should have given you some cards to give out en route!

  7. Phil Dean

    Great post – quick off the marks too! That pretty much sums up the evening, so I’ll have to find another angle

    My notes started off being quite descriptive then they turn into comedy.

    I didn’t get a hat but I had received one, the minicab driver would have probably charged me double.

  8. KSalty

    Oh I love Mien Tay – will they be rolling out this wine list at the Kingsland Rd branch too? Will bookmark this post as an aide memoire to get out of my salt and pepper squid/pho order rut – that seabass starter looks amazing.

  9. Greedy Diva

    Sounds like quite a debaucherous evening – just my kind of thing! I love Vietnamese food and although I normally crave beer with it, I will be interested to try Willie’s wine matches. Salt and pepper squid must be one of the best inventions ever.

  10. Anna Johnston

    Oh how I love great wine matched with fantastic food. You’ve done well to get a great pairing with Vietnamese food! As you say…., the wrong wine/food pairing especially in Asian foods brings on the ‘mouth puckering look’ quite easily. Thanks for sharing these wines with the dishes.

  11. Douglas

    Your wine appreciation is vastly improving.

  12. Melanie Seasons

    Oh Helen, all of it looks amazing! Especially those gorgeous spring rolls. I haven’t bee to Mien Tay yet, but it’s been on my list for a while. I’ve never been against wine with Vietnamese, but it’s certainly not been my first choice. I’ll check it out.

  13. Lizzie

    I am exceptionally pissed off that I had to stay late at work and miss this. That sea bass sounds awesome. LET’S GO BACK SOON PLEASE.

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  15. An American in London

    Is this Mien Tay owned by the same people who own Mien Tay in Dalston? Because the last time I visited the one in Dalston, it had declined drastically in quality.

  16. Helen

    I think it is owned by the same people yes. That is such a shame. I went once to the one in Battersea when the owners were away and the food wasn’t as good but it was a very difficult time for them, which is no secret. Anyway I hope it was just a blip because the food was stunning the other night. I hope the same goes for the Kingsland Rd branch. Hopefully they can pick up again.

  17. Hannah

    How can I live in Battersea and not have known about this place before now? I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Needless to say I will sort out this sorry state of affairs asap. Ace write up though – and those pics make me feel mighty peckish too.

  18. Ben Norum

    Oh dear. That last picture is a bit embarrassing, really. Could we call it modern art?

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