Vietnamese is a cuisine that has so far proved elusive. That is until we stepped foot inside a cafe hidden in the backstreets of Nottingham – Coco Tang.
This place comes in two parts. Entry from the Byard Lane way brings you into what appears to be a coffee shop. Cakes are displayed on the counter and the cafe vibe creates the atmosphere.
Beside the vast choice of coffee and hot chocolate, there’s also a food menu. Every dish on the menu sounded tempting. The prices also reflect decent value with the most expensive dish coming in at £11.50.
I love the concept of just ordering your food and drink then sitting down, it cuts out all the waiting around at the end. Coco Tang have got a great system for this – kind of pub style. Take a wooden spoon with your table number on it and head through to the bar area which features a huge cocktail bar and seating.
This place does have somewhat of a ‘hipster’ vibe with the staff dressed casually and the ‘cool crew’ occupying tables talking over bowls of noodles. I really love the vibe in here, relaxed for sure.
We had ordered a bowl of Soft Shell Crab with Pickled Vietnamese Salad Noodles (that’s the £11.50 bowl) along with Coal BBQ Chicken and Rice with Pak Choi. We weren’t really in the mood for alcohol after a week of wine in Lyon so we grabbed two of the freshest orange juices that we probably will ever drink – lovely stuff.
The portion sizes are generous here – no stingy small bowls of noodles. The crab looked as if it were rising out of the plate! I certainly wasn’t going short of seafood on this dish! The chicken came with a lemongrass and ginger glaze, the scent of which wafted across the table. We couldn’t wait to dig in.
I haven’t had soft shell crab in a long time, also, it’s been a while since i’ve used chopsticks! If you’re in a pickle, there are spoons provided, so don’t worry. The crab was crunchy, fresh and delicious. The staff at Coco Tang also provide a basket of condiments featuring fish sauce, hoisin and cashew plus spicy sriracha sauce to adapt the flavours of your meal.
The noodles with the crab were all interspersed with pickled carrots, cucumbers and a few other crunchy vegetables. The sauce was kind of a chilli mayonnaise from what I could detect although i’m a sucker for hoisin – one of the best sauces ever created. I gave my noodles a good helping of it.
Across the table, the chicken was going down a treat. That charcoal taste really brings out the best in the lemongrass and ginger flavour. The rice and pak choi are perfect accompaniments but a real surprise in this bowl was the chilli sauce – highly addictive!
For £25 this really is decent value. There are sockets to charge your phone while you eat, nice beats playing in the background and cocktails that we were kicking ourselves for not ordering. The cakes also come highly recommended which we intend to try on our next visit.
The food, more importantly, is brilliant. I would happily eat my soft shell crab all over again. There are a number of dishes on the menu that sound enticing – plus of course the traditional Vietnamese staple, Pho.
It’s 100% worth seeking out Coco Tang Cafe in Nottingham’s Lace Market. Ideal before any event at the Motorpoint Arena or a quick lunch while out on a shopping spree. As for our first taste of Vietnamese food – wow! When can we go again?
Opening Times: Daily 1000-2200
Nearest Tram: Lace Market
Nearest Train Station: Nottingham