Jenessa Williams beholds the best bready bargain in Leeds
Returning to the Headingley high street on a Sunday afternoon feels somewhat homely. Students fill out the Sainsbury’s to stock up on essentials, languid brunchers spill out of eateries and on the pavements, there is a deceptive air of Spring as people lug charity shop donations full of Kondo-esque clearouts. It’s a region of Leeds that never feels quiet.
A vast difference to the ‘pile it high and cheap’ mentality of a lot of takeaway restaurants
Much like its rotation of undergraduates, Headingley is constantly changing, and six months ago, it gained a new venue – Viet Baker. Tucked just up a corner on North Lane, the restaurant takeaway is the brainchild of Khoa Van, a longterm resident of the UK, frustrated by the lack of authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the area.
Teaming up with Duc Le, a baker trained in Vietnam, they’ve fast earned a name for themselves as a go-to hungover spot, and the only Vietnamese venue in town that bakes their own bread.
We may not be nursing sore heads, but the instant smell of fresh bread is certainly intoxicating enough. With nobody else around, we have the run of the place, picking at our pleasure from the reclaimed wood tables and leather industrial chairs that recall some of the trendier outlets in Trinity Kitchen.
We’re greeted by a friendly staff member who happily chats with us, talking us through the menu with genuine enthusiasm. She even turns up the music for our benefit – a YouTube-supplied blend of hip-hop and chart bangers emanating from the kitchen. Not exactly in keeping with the Vietnamese theme, but a welcoming, non-pretentious atmosphere nonetheless. They would probably take requests.
Of course, it would be rude to come all this way without sampling their namesake Banh Mi, as part of a bargain-priced meal deal – bun, snack and a fizzy drink for £7.95. My dining partner chooses the slightly lighter bun cha - snack and drink for £8.95. We sit back down smugly with our drinks, satisfied with our under-£20 lunch choice.
When the Viking vessel that is my Bahn Mi (£4.95) arrives, I know I won’t need to eat again for the rest of the week. The combination of fresh bread, belly pork and pickled veg is an intimidating beast to take down, but it pairs wonderfully with lashings of Sriracha mayo, supplied in industrial-sized bottles. Each mouthful is fresh and it’s clear that the ingredients are seasoned with care, a vast difference to the ‘pile it high and cheap’ mentality of a lot of takeaway restaurants. The side of spring rolls (£2.95) is also excellent, chockfull of minched pork and prawns, crispy with no residual greasiness.
Across the table, I have slight envy of my friend’s Bun Cha (£6.95), a room-temp noodle dish with a fragrant sauce that our host encourages her to pour over. Swiping a mouthful, it’s a wonderful summery alternative to Pho, the BBQ’d chicken adding just the right amount of salt. My friend’s side was prawn toast (£3.50), and we both indulge in a serious upper arm workout trying to lift it, with layers of prawn almost as thick as the French bread it sits upon. It’s not much of a looker, but it’s stuff of greasy, indulgent heaven, pops of chilli and coriander peeking out from within the meat. This is a JustEat treat you’ll want to bookmark.
Viet Baker doesn’t provide pudding, but it’s probably for the best. We’re both positively stuffed, and pretty impressed. Packing no-nonsense flavours in an unpretentious environment, it’s the sort of place that would become a regular late-night visit if you were in the area, and a regular online order if you weren’t. As the newest Vietnamese kid on the block, this baker is set to make a lot of dough.
The Viet Baker, 15 North Lane, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 3HG.
Follow Jenessa Williams @jnessr
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Banh Mi 7, Spring Rolls 8, Bun Cha 7, Prawn Toast 8
Easy-going and likeable
Pleasant and modern – a takeaway you’re happy to sit in