Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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October 29, 2022

The Banh Mi Bar, Edinburgh, review

We ditch our boring home office lunch and visit this place

What can be teamed with cheese in a bap? Pickle, tomato, cucumber, chutney, kimchi, apple.

We’ve tried every partnership. The same goes for eggs, though I’ve given up on making hummus exciting. As we run out of original ideas, our lunchtime sandwich game is looking poor.

Thus, we jumped at the opportunity to eat somewhere other than in our living room, with another uninspired piece on our laps, while watching Bargain Hunt.

The Working from Home and Always Hungry Club took a final sad and wistful look at the beige contents of our fridge, sighed heavily, put our coats on and headed up to Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield. That’s where you’ll find this three-month old venue, whose original branch is at East Market Street Arches. It’s in the former premises of toastie makers, Meltmongers, right opposite The Links.

We took a pew at one of their refectory style tables, though you can also order takeaway or get lunch biked to your house through independent business Foodstuff.

The menu makes no mention of cheese sandwiches. Hooray hooray, it’s a lactose holiday, to paraphrase Boney M.

Their speciality is the eponymous Vietnamese sandwich, except their own version of the theme, so we didn’t see any of the pate or pork sausage that you might expect on a traditional version. Instead, they’ve gone wild with creative fillings. When it comes to a few of the offerings, I do wonder when something stops being a banh mi and starts being just a sandwich, but then I get too hangry for such silly ponderings.

At this place, you also get to choose your bread: a baguette, brown granary or soft white.

I went for the classic baguette for my cooked banh mi with sliced pork belly (£10).They’re served chopped in half, and are a clutchable size, so if you were taking away, you wouldn’t end up with a third of the contents on your face, another portion down your jumper and the rest on the pavement.

After I’d taken a bite, my tired and jaded taste-buds were like Sparky in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, all hooked up to the electricity and reanimated. They’re alive!

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The thinly sliced meat was slicked in a salty, sweet and sticky caramel glaze, and the bread also contained a smudge of garlic mayo, Sriracha, strips of pickled carrot, daikon, and sticks of apple, plus spiced apple sauce. There was crunch, vibrancy and acidity and the whole shebang felt indulgent, but not stodgy. This is not a Subway.

We also tried the onion bhaji version (£8), served in a soft white. The aromatic and copper-coloured batter on the bhaji was as crisp as autumn leaves underfoot (well, last month, before it started raining), and worked well with all the fusion elements including tikka Sriracha, and more of the fresh coriander and zingy veggies that had been in my sarnie.

Our lunch was so good that we spent the whole time talking about what we’d order next time. Probably the cold banh mi with chicken, black pepper, lime juice, fish sauce and pork crackling. Both of us want that. Or, the tofu banh mi, which has the intriguing addition of dulse. I wouldn’t be averse to one of their vermicelli rice noodle salads either.

If you’re sitting in, you can also choose from a few side options. We tried a huge portion of decent chips (£4), which were splurged with chevron stripes of pale pink Sriracha mayo. And there was the miso peanut sauce coated broccoli (£4). You could hardly see the vegetation, since it was speckled with so many sesame seeds and chilli flakes.

Since we only get boring old tap water or sour milk at home, we also went for a couple of the fancy and ethical craft sodas - Organic Karma Cola (£2) and the Lemonaid Blood Orange (£3) - which we grabbed out of the chiller cabinet. That sugar-powered us home, but there’s also coffee if you need something stronger. We would have stayed for that, but the final second of our designated lunch hour was nigh. The workhouse bell was clanging.

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“That was brilliant, but what will we have for lunch tomorrow?” said my other half, as we hot footed it back to the flat.

It’s business as usual for the Working from Home and Always Hungry Club.

80 Bruntsfield Place


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Pork banh mi

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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