SITUATED in a cluster of trendy shops and restaurants near Victoria Park, shabby-chic vietnamese café Namo gives an instant blast of bohemian bliss.

The horse-shoe shaped eating area is nicely decorated with ornate bird cages and golden buddhas and is an excellent pick for a warm summer’s evening with its sheltered terrace area.

The sister restaurant of the acclaimed Huong Viet, in Islington, Namo offers classic Vietnamese food with a smattering of Chinese ingredients, all solely prepared by restuarantuer Miss Linh Vu.

Staff at first appeared stony faced and slightly inconsistent, with uniforms ranging from smart black shirts to less-smart bright-red rugby tops, but once approached, they demonstrated good product knowledge with friendly attitudes.

Round one went to my date, who opted for Muc Rang Muoi - chilli crispy squid with lemongrass and sweet chilli sauce - on the advice of the waiter.

As an adaption of one of my all-time favourite hordeuvres, this fishy dish was perfectly peppered and the lightness of the batter beat any previous calamari experiences hands-down.

My choice of Cua Rang Me - soft shell Vietnamese crab in batter with Tamarind sauce and a sour fruit dip - was disappointing by comparison as it tasted over-cooked with hint of burt oil, and perhaps a first for me, I failed to polish my plate.

Round two, however, saw success in both corners, with Bo Vi Huong - a tender and aromatic beef curry - hitting the spot with my date and the Ca Hap Gung - delicate, whole steamed seabass with spring onions, ginger and soy - compensating well for my stunted start.

We also ordered a side of noodles and beansprouts which remained untouched due to a greasy consistency and lashings of soy sauce that proved a little too liberal.

To finish, we planned to cleanse our pallets with mango spring rolls, apparently a must-taste for those who like to push conventional dessert boundaries a little further than chilli and chocolate, but we lost our patience waiting to be served and ordered the bill instead. The overall result was a split decision, with points awarded for the big hitters but penalties suffered for those off-target.

But with a bottle of wine and the meal only totting up to around £50, I did not feel cheated and would only suggest that visitors seek the expert advice of staff before making their selections.

178 Victoria Park Road,
E9 7HD

TEL: 8533 0639.