116 Hopkins St
Forget gourmet. The humble banh mi remains, to date, the most delicious sandwich I’ve had. But maybe humble isn’t quite the right word here; 3 meats, 4 salads, and 3 spreads/sauces in a single sandwich is far from plain.
Nhu Lan in Footscray (and Fitzroy) is widely accepted as the best place to get banh mi in Melbourne. Being right in the hub of Footscray, right next to the train station, it’s predictably pumping any time of the day. I was seriously impressed with the variety of people who visit; living in Melbourne means that I’m used to a wide range of clientele but Nhu Lan really takes the cake, being equally popular with the old and the young, local and foreign, suits and low-slung pants.
It’s not only the sandwiches that make Nhu Lan famous; it’s their baked goods as well. K, who lives nearby, tells me that everything they make is delicious, even the bread rolls. But it’s hard to stop at the staples, with cabinets of pastries, cakes, and sweets both Western and Asian on display.
But of course, we’re here for the banh mi. I couldn’t get close enough to the counter to see exactly what they have on offer in the cabinets (I sent Chris instead), but I caught a glimpse of cold cuts, stewed meats, roasted meats, shredded meats, and a variety of fresh salads to top it all off. It took about 15 minutes to get our sandwiches, then another 2 to find the nearest bench.
|Mixed Ham Roll ($4)|
Despite being a food blogger, I often fall into the trap of ordering the same thing at different restaurants. But how can I say no to my beloved Mixed Ham Roll ($4)? To be honest, I don’t quite know how to feel about this roll. I have a place that does Vietnamese rolls near my house, which I frequent, not to mention Springvale not so far away. And whilst this roll was impeccable – bread that showered crumbs, crispy vegetables, flavoursome ham (including pieces mapped with tendon) – I can’t help but feel that it’s missing something. Maybe it’s because it’s a tad smaller with a tad less generous ingredients, maybe because there’s less oomph in the flavours, but I think I will still be getting my Vietnamese sandwich fix closer to home.
|Roast Pork Roll ($4)|
Chris on the other hand, lost his banh mi virginity with the Roast Pork Roll ($4). I really shouldn’t be surprised, but I was, when I found that this tasted very different from the mixed ham roll. Instead of peppery cold cuts, this was filled with warm chunks of roast pork, doused in a thick, plummy sauce. I didn’t like this as much as the mixed ham roll but Chris liked it a lot more – he insists that this is why we are such a great couple.
|Custard Tart ($1.2)/Rice Cakes ($2.8)|
So whilst Chris went to get the rolls, I stood there surrounded by sweets and treats. He wasn’t even remotely surprised when he saw me clutching dessert when he emerged from the small ocean of people – a Custard Tart ($1.2) for him, and Rice Cakes ($2.8) for me. The tart was big with a beautiful crumbly shell that almost (and eventually did) disintegrate in the hand, but the custard was unfortunately a bit bland in comparison. As for the rice cakes? Well, they’re rice cakes – fluffy, slightly chewy, and very sweet.
Of course I liked Nhu Lan, and of course I know why people flock to it. With good bread, sandwiches and cakes, it covers all the bases a bakery should, then some more. But at the same time, I’m glad I have some good Vietnamese rolls near my house; I don’t fancy having to cross the city for my weekly fix!
Rating: 13/20 – viet rolls <3