Known as the place where you will find bargain goods shops and late night food takeaways, Gold Street in Northampton is perhaps a surprising location for the town’s only Vietnamese restaurant.
But having recently returned from a fantastic honeymoon in Thailand, my wife Hannah and I were eager to find out if Saigon would help us relive some of the delicious Asian food we had eaten.
Visiting the restaurant shortly after 6pm on a Wednesday night we were one of only half a dozen diners in the restaurant that can serve up to 30 people.
As the dining area was so sparsely populated we were offered a choice of tables by the friendly waitress who immediately provided us with menus and promptly took our drinks order.
The food menu offered a wide range of dishes, most of which were pictured, with prices between £5 to £7.
My wife chose the clear prawn dumplings while I opted for the pork and prawn summer roll.
One of the pleasurable things about eating Asian food is that starters are often presented in a way that makes it easy for diners to share between them.
So when our starters arrived, it was pleasing to see the waitress put them in the middle of the table and offered us both side plates so we could try both dishes.
My summer rolls were satisfyingly large, wider than spring rolls and coated in a thin, but strong, rice paper that was sturdy enough to make it easy to dip them in the peanut sauce. Having developed a taste for Dim Sum in Thailand, my wife enjoyed her clear prawn dumplings, which are made with the traditional Chinese dough.
The “dumplings” were small parcels containing a small portion of prawn that could be eaten in one mouthful.
The dish was accompanied with a delicious sweet chilli sauce that really boosted the flavour of the dumplings.
For main course, I went for the crispy noodles with beef and my wife chose the beef with lemongrass and chilli and a portion of fried rice.
Unlike the greasy crispy noodles offered from bad Chinese takeaways, mine were fresh and crunchy but stayed together on the fork with the succulent strips of beef.
My wife said her dish was also perfectly cooked and contained a variety of flavours and was not overwhelmed by the chilli.
In terms of decor, it is fair to say Saigon does not have an elaborately designed interior but it is clean and tidy with little touches such as ceramic turtles and oriental wall markings to help give it some character.
Perhaps the biggest positive the restaurant has is the excellence service, which albeit on a quiet night, was prompt and friendly.
Due to my inability to handle chopsticks, I was provided with a knife and fork by the waitress, who also took the time to talk to explain to us any dishes on the menu we were not familiar with.
After we spotted that the restaurant offered Durian, an extremely tasty but notoriously smelly fruit we encountered in Thailand, the waitress explained that she organised for unusual ingredients to be shipped over to ensure the dishes were as aunthentic as possible.
Overall, it was a very pleasant meal and, with its delicious food and accommodating service, Saigon has managed to transport the best of Asian cuisine and culture to the heart of Northampton town centre.
The closure of the popular Dangs restaurant in Wellingborough Road last year left a gap in the market in Northampton for a good Vietnamese restaurant.
From my experience, Saigon seems to have filled it.
Saigon also offers a lunch menu and is open from 11am every day apart Tuesday.
21 Gold Street,
Northampton, NN1 1RA
Tel: 01604 947345
Value: Very good
Service: Very quick, friendly and waitress took time to explain menu and offer knife and fork
Parking: Within walking distance of all town centre car parks