The Plough Harborne, is one of Birmingham’s huge success stories. Always ahead of the game, Adam Johnson (formerly of Global Grooves Records, 52 Degrees North and Circo Bar) got to work crafting this unique quirky pub way before the city was appearing in gastronomic features of excellence. The Plough was one of the few great food & drink businesses which took dining in the second city seriously – and it paid off.
I’ve eaten at the Plough many times now, but never for a pop-up. On this occasion I was visiting for their last Winter Sessions pop-up kitchen, which was hosted by Eat Vietnam on December 17th 2017.
Eat Vietnam offers up umami-packed traditional Vietnamese food with the freshest ingredients in a pop-up setting, and, as with the Plough, it rises from the ashes of something quite special in Brum – Ming, the creator of Eat Vietnam used to run the awesome Atoo Clothing.
As ever, the Plough inside was packed, busy with drinkers and diners with a small queue for tables. My pint of HPA was quickly poured and I sauntered out back to say hello to Ming, I purchased some brilliant long lasting threads from this guy over the years.
Cured Belly Pork
Ming was curating a busy kitchen outside. Staff were quickly arriving with orders, there was high demand for the dishes whilst I was there. Inside space was at a premium, so I sat at one of the carefully laid beer garden tables which were covered from the rain, thoughtfully adorned with menus and rolled up blankets to keep away the cold.
I opted for just one main dish, Cured Belly Pork with rice, which arrived piping hot within minutes. Care was taken with all orders to ensure they reached tables hot, which was important as it was cold outside.
A large pickled Shiitake mushroom crowned this Vietnamese plate of glory, and had the most incredible intense taste. It was presented beautifully on top of the pork, and slightly sticky rice. Beneath this, the pork looked succulent and was cooked to the finest perfection, a deliciously soft belly attached to the most crunchy outer skin – what a combination. The long wedge of pork belly was easily cut, it was juicy, and soaked up sauce, which, just added to the explosion of taste.
The mint and coriander cut through the slightly spare-rib sweetness of pork and lifted the dish to a new level..
Whilst I’m not usually big on salad, I must say this added so much to the dish. Baby tomatoes were fresh and juicy, and the inspiring combination of mint, coriander and dill just complimented the pork, rice and sauce so perfectly. The mint and coriander cut through the slightly spare-rib sweetness of pork and lifted the dish to a new level, with a fresh clean after taste. I am told the pork was cured for 48 hours in Eat Vietnam’s own spice rub, slow braised for a couple of hours before searing, so it didn’t taste this good by accident.
Other dishes on offer were: Vietnamese Monks Vegetable Hot Pot (with Shiitake Mushrooms, Black Fungus, Napa Cabbage, Tofu Skin, Sprouts, Red Bean Curd and Vermicelli) and Hanoi Fried Fish (Hake, Dill, Vermicelli, Vietnamese Herbs & Peanuts).
A cool disco soundtrack set the scene outside, and I felt completely satisfied and also educated after this dining experience. Great value indeed, and I would happily become a regular should Eat Vietnam ever find a permanent home in this city. Busy, professional, full of tasty goodness and right on the money!
More info here: www.facebook.com/eatvietnamuk
Review by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham
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