Social media hype has a weird wormhole-like distorting effect on anything it touches.
Abominable albums, for example, are lauded as iconic, dim celebrities are heralded as visionaries. Pinhead businessmen can become leaders of the free world, even.
And it happens so fast nowadays you can often even find a hot new restaurant being burned by a backlash before the first proper review has been planned, never mind written.
So let’s get one thing straight. Eat Saigon in Gold Street, Northampton is as excellent as you’ve heard. It’s as quirky, funny, tasty, happy a place as TripAdvisor led you to believe when it first opened in 2013.
The 4.8 / 5 star rating had obviously got some backs up because recent reviews have gloried in disdain, all but calling the chef a rank amateur and the whole concept a Emperor’s New Clothes-style fraud. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
First off, the ‘controversy’ about Eat Saigon calling itself a restaurant. Well, I suppose if you define a restaurant as a darkened place where couples go to ignore each other in public before haemorrhaging pound coins onto a saucer, you have a point. You’re also missing the point of dining out.
Yes, of course eat Saigon looks like a cafe, but what saves it from that lazy description is the fact that everything else, from the atmosphere to the dishes, screams quality. The overall experience is what counts and if you walk away feeling good, guess what, it's a good restaurant.
Five of us dined at Eat Saigon on a weekday evening and were taken immediately by the informality of the frankly hilarious Vietnamese lady who owns the place.
My friend can’t use chopsticks, bless him, and she laughed at him along with the rest of us. I carefully ordered using the long-form description on the menu to be airily told she’d written down the number ages ago, to much laughter from our group. I promise you she’s equally lovely and briliant.
The food was simple yet epic.
Summer rolls (like spring rolls but soft and dim sum-like) filled with pork and prawns were an incredible starter.
The goat curries we were given were a tastier version of your lamb indian curries in hugely satisfying portions. Tender meat with delicate spices.
Vermicelli noodles, though wriggle and almost impossible to chase with chopsticks were well worth the effort with the bite-sized beef morsels the best-cooked examples in any restaurant in the town centre.
You disappointed reviewers; sit down for moment, close your eyes. Hear the sizzle of the cooking a few metres away, the belly laughter of the legendary - yes, she’s earned it - host, smell the incredible aromas. Indeed why not, your expectations cleansed, taste the food anew.
I’m sure you’ll find, without the burden of reacting, you’ll find it as we and hundreds before us did. Delicious. Worthwhile. Justified.
A quality restaurant; it’s official.