Tucked away down Byard Lane, you’d be hard pushed to have noticed the opening of Coco Tang nightclub’s sister venture Cafe Coco Tang. With speciality coffee, oriental bakes, cocktails and a Vietnamese kitchen in an achingly hipster setting, there’s something new to discover with every one of their impressively kitsch Instagram posts.
Cartwheel cafe are our reigning Notts champs of the siphon coffee, but we ordered 2 El Salvador roasts and had a look at the small, street food inspired Vietnamese menu. Quintessentially Vietnamese, Stu couldn’t say no to the hot beef noodle soup called pho (pronounced fuuur) and I went for the bbq chicken and rice bowl with lemongrass and ginger glaze.
The building is deceptively massive, there’s a hip ordering area as you walk through that opens up to a large dining area and cocktail bar. Wind up the stairs and you’ll find another dining area and swish roof terrace, all adorned with plants, low lights and Moroccan tiles so you feel somewhere else entirely to a Nottingham side street.
Our coffee arrived in a very peculiar receptacle, big glass bulbs to pour into little ceramic cups that are great if you hate your fingerprints. The coffee was delicious, a huge step above your chain places but it didn’t quite steal the crown from Cartwheel for us.
Considering it was packed to the rafters, the food came relatively quickly and all the staff were really helpful and friendly. We were bought cutlery and house-made hoisin sauce, fish sauce and sriracha to add to our lunch – the fact they make their own versions is a nice touch.
My glazed chicken came with sautéed pak choi, sticky rice and glaze on the side and I was astonished at the sheer volume of rice – might need to work on their ratios there, I think they felt like they had to fill the unnecessarily huge bowl. The chicken was absolutely delicious and the best part of my dish. The glaze was tangy with lemongrass and sweet with honey with a slight fieriness of ginger, complementing the bitter char from the bbq process. The smoky caramelisation from the hot grill really kicked this up a notch and the thighs themselves were tender and juicy. Fast enough and perfect for lunch, just no need for all the extra sticky rice! Although, I did enjoy using it as a vessel to test the house sauces. The hoisin was delicious, sweet and sticky and much better than the shop bought stuff. The fish sauce was really flavourful too, that super savoury flavour adding an eyelid-twitching punch.
Stu’s pho came with a plate of freshly chopped ingredients: lime, chilli, bean sprouts, spring onion and some unidentifiable leaves (Thai basil, maybe?) The intention was to mix the fresh salad in with the steamy, meaty noodle soup; what a great idea, getting the rich still-pink beef and salty stock in contrast with the bite of fresh chilli and spring onion and zing from lime juice just lifts the whole dish. The beef tasted of good quality and the noodles were cooked ok. Stu added a big slug of fish sauce and a dollop of hoisin to really customise that broth and there were lots slurping sounds from our table. Not the best noodle soup in the world, but it’s a light and interesting lunch dish.
All in all, we were fairly impressed by the vietnamese kitchen at Cafe Coco Tang. The service was really quick despite how busy it was, the environment is really interesting and it’s a nice lunch, a cool spot if you’re on the go in the city centre. We enjoyed the orentiental-style tapas at Timeout Cafe more, but they seem to have done well with minimal teething problems on the first day open. There is a downside here: the price. We had two of the cheapest dishes on the menu at £8 and £9.50, but a soft shell crab lunch will set you back £11.50 and our siphon coffees were £3.50 each. It’s a bit steeper than you associate with its cafe culture and not great value for the quality of the food. You can definitely spend less on lunch at better places, but it was worth the hipster experience if you want to escape to another world for a while. We really do want to try that soft shell crab though!