Hugh Trung Bui is currently fitting out a 100-cover unit on Dean Street that last traded as Korean restaurant Kaya.
The new restaurant will be called Cây Tre, but will be markedly different from its Shoreditch namesake with a striking design aesthetic conceived by David Archer, the respected restaurant designer behind Busaba Eathai and Soho’s Aaya.
“A lot of contemporary Asian restaurants are very dark, we’re going to go bright and white,” said Trung Bui. “They’ll be vivid flashes of colour to break things up. The menus and the staff uniform, for example, will be decorated with colourful flower prints.”
The format of the restaurant has also been changed to suit a different location. Smaller plates will be offered in a bid to slightly up spend and encourage a tapas-like approach to eating. Some larger dishes will be available, but the majority of these will be designed to share.
Trung Bui said that a lot of customers at his Shoreditch restaurant travelled from all over London, so a central site made sense.
“We’re popular and on busy nights we end up turning some people away so expansion makes sense for us,” he said.
“Soho is a different crowd to Shoreditch but a lot of the customers will be similar, trendy people looking for something new and authentic. Most Vietnamese restaurants in Soho and Chinatown sell a lot of Chinese food, we wanted to do something more authentic.”
The launch menu is based on a recent research trip to Vietnam. New dishes currently being considered for the menu include Mackerel Summer Rolls, Deep Fried Crab Rolls, Minced Prawn and Pork Satay with Chicken Liver and Hoisin Dip, Soft Shell Crab Curry with Rolled Noodles and Kingfish with Tomoto and Dill.
Trung Bui recently opened a fast casual concept on Old Street opposite the original Cây Tre and just down the road from Viet Grill.
Kêu! (pronounced kay-o) is Vietnamese for ‘that’s fantastic!’, and will major on banh mi, the crusty baguette filled with terrines, meats, lightly pickled vegetables, fragrant herbs and mayonnaise that came about during the French colonisation of Vietnam in the mid-nineteenth century.
Other dishes include Spice Roast Duck with Seasonal Steamed Greens and Rice and Red Sea Prawn Salad with Shredded Green Mango.
Decor is bright and contemporary with a black and lime green colour scheme. The unit’s very limited seating places the emphasis firmly on takeaway sales and the price point is accessible, with all banh mi sandwiches priced at £4.50, soups at £3.50, salads from £4.50 and complete ‘lunch box’ meals from £5.50.
Trung Bui hopes to roll the Kêu! concept out across London, using the kitchen at the inaugural Old Street unit as a production kitchen.
“The investment for this first unit was high, around £270,000, but that’s because of the large kitchen and the cost of the designer – I wanted to get this first one right because it’s going to be the template,” he said.