Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review: Little Saigon, Bigg Market

Remember the other week I went to Albaik which was an amazing find in the most unlikely of locations?

Well Little Saigon is a bit like that, although not as good.

The Bigg Market in Newcastle is known for many things, and as much as I love the site of women in sailor outfits defecating from their mouths in door ways, it isn't exactly my favourite place in the city. And it certainly has it's hand in portraying all the wrong stereotypes about Newcastle, but there are certain good things to be found there and no, Blu Bambu, I am not looking at you.

Little Saigon is a Vietnamese restaurant located in the Bigg Market and although its decor fits into the dated, themed restaurant styling and vague tackiness of it's locations the food is a million miles away from take away kebabs and cheesy chips.

We went to Little Saigon at 6 o'clock on a Saturday, on match day. God even at that time being in town is a struggle. As well as the many drunken revellers outside the restaurant was fairly busy. I did get the sense that the service, which was very efficient and suited us at the time as we were in a rush, was making the effort to get us in, eaten and out as quick as possible. And the food sort of reflected this, quick service pots of pre made sauces easy to serve to lots of tables on heavy rotation.

Several of us got the Caramel Pork, £7.95, which is slow cooked in a clay pot and means the pork is really tender and the sauce is full of flavour. The issue was the sauce had a gloopy texture, similar to that of chinese take aways from up and down the country - it automatically makes it seemer cheaper. It does however make the rice (Steamed £1.95) go sticky thus easier to pick up with chop sticks, little tip for you there.

Little Saigon, Caramel Pork, £7.95
Other dishes had a similar texture but were equally flavoursome including King Prawn Sate, £10.50 (i'm not really sure what that is) and lemon grass chicken (£7.95).

Little Saigon, King Prawn Sate, £10.50
The other half had a drier dish of chargrilled duck in a red soy bean sauce, which he didn't seem too fussed about but I thought had a nice smoked flavour.

Although all this food was perfectly acceptable, at a reasonable price (but i'm sure it used to be cheaper and better) when I have food like this i always think i'd prefer to have a few starters rather than a single main meal. I want to try lots of things and for some reason the little dishes, often deep fried and involving pastry are so tempting. I had been here with a large group before and we shared all the dishes, starters and mains, and was definitely a more enjoyable way of eating. The same applies the first time I went to what was then Barn Asia, being a little strapped for cash meant we got 4 starters to share with some sides and it was all so tasty, duck dumplings and their famous scallops and caramel pork dish but don't get me started on how tasty they are. 

Now that i've been here a few times, i'd definitely say that over time the food has gone down hill, it still makes for a nice enough dinner but at the price you could find better elsewhere (and not have to deal with the drunks outside). But we did get 30% off our total bill and free bottle of hideous wine because it was either Little Saigon's birthday or anniversary or some kind of occasion. I wasn't sure but when a main, rice and beer come to £10 I wasn't asking. 

Little Saigon, 6 Bigg Market, Newcastle, NE1 1UW, 0191 233 0766


  1. I ate there just over a year ago and it was really good! Where would you suggest for better? I love Vietnamese food - I discovered it in the the South of France, oddly, but have never found anything that compares in the UK.


    1. I know I ate there about a year ago and it was really good, but this time was just a little disappointing as I knew it could be much better. I guess I said you could find better as for the amount you'd spend if you didn't have the cheeky 30% puts it inline with lots of good places in town, but not necessarily vietnamese. I really like nudo, which I know isn't vietnamese but does similar big noodle soup things and some spicy stir fried dishes, plus the best deep fried chicken dumplings, have you been there? it's about 2 seconds away from the loft so you should check it out if you haven't


  2. We're new to Newcastle and want a recommendation of where to go to eat for Valentines day. We're not that into it but just see it as an excuse really, to go out to a nicer than normal restaurant. I want somewhere smallish and cosy, with good reasonably priced food, but don't know where to start. The only places we've eaten in Newcastle are mainstream ones, Wagamamas or a couple of cheapish Italians. Totally up for any type of food, maybe not Italian as a but run of the mill. Just want somewhere with a good atmosphere and decent food, but don't know where to start looking. I had heard there was an Vietnamese down that end of town, which I thought might be good, but I imagine it was the one above, and I don't want to go there now, maybe another time though! Any suggestions? Perhaps it could be a post?

  3. Just realised that looks a little demanding, 'Tell us where to go!' I don't mean it to, just always like to get recommendations, especially as we don't know many places, so do send any ideas our way! Love food, love your blog (particularly the hunt for the best burger!) and every day love Newcastle more and more!

    1. Hello,

      it's always good to hear from people who are discovering new restaurants in newcastle and i'd love to give you some suggestions for valentines. I'll be staying in on Valentine's but I know that Pan Haggerty which is down by the quayside have a special 3 course valentines menu which looks really nice, the inside is modern but small enough to still feel intimate -
      i also really love blackfriars which is tucked away between china town and the gate in a medieval building with a lovely square, they do classic british food and was superb when i went (sadly before i started writing this blog, i must return!)

      Panis which i've written about before is a really lovely traditional italian (no pizza) and is really reasonably priced and one of my go to places for a reliable meal, and throws up some proper rustic italian cooking rather than the sorts of things you'd normally get - thats on highbridge street, just off from grey street and next to it is dabbawal indian street food place which looks amazing and i've heard very good things about, lots of bits you can share together, perfect for an informal valentines meal. I'm yet to eat there but that would be my top tip i think as it's not too expensive either.

      Hope this helps, let me know how you get on and where you end up going!

  4. I've wanted to try Little Saigon for ages!
    I know exactly what you mean about the Bigg market like and it does give a completely stereotypical representation of the city!

    Hannah xx


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