U&I Café

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45 Francis Street, Northbridge
Ph: (08) 9228 9859
24hr Pho? For sure!

FEW can deny that Perth has seen a surge in the number of restaurants over the past five years, however, one thing has remained the same: the complete lack of late night eating options. If you are on the hunt for a late night dish after 10pm, you are stuck with the option of a greasy kebab, burgers, or another trip to Chinatown. Thankfully, there is one restaurant in the heart of Northbridge that has turned late-night dining on its head, offering good quality food at ridiculously low prices, 24 hours a day.
As I walked into U & I Café, I was surprised at how well maintained it is. 24 hour restaurants generally come in two categories: Either so unkempt that they put you off (to the point where you may question why you are still awake), or boasting a sterile environment with blinding white lights, cheap plastic furniture, and a general disdain for any sort of ambience.
Instead, I was greeted by a warm, inviting décor and an extremely friendly wait-staff, not only knowledgeable about the food, but eager to advise a relative ‘newbie’ to Vietnamese cuisine as to what dishes to try. With plenty of space inside, and a beautiful outdoor section featuring a huge TV screen (perfect for those late night football games), U & I is a perfect spot for any type of function.
I decided to grab a drink before poring through their extensive menu, however it was a difficult choice, as the list of freshly made juices, cocktails and mocktails seemed to go on forever. I was hugely impressed that the drinks menu included fare that is hardly ever seen in Perth, where the more adventurous can sample Durian milkshakes or Orange Egg Yolk soda. For those (like me) who have a more conservative palate, the cocktail, beer and wine menus offer all the expected options plus some, and I was stunned that the bar staff was capable of producing such a huge array of drinks.
The first dish I sampled was the Ga Xao Xa Ot, a stir-fry lemongrass chilli chicken dish that was absolutely bursting with flavours. Juicy morsels of chicken soaked in a combination of fish sauce, lemon grass, chilli and garlic created an amalgamation of aromas that soon had my salivary glands working overtime. Despite the generous portion, I made quick work of the dish, and was raring to move onto the next one.
Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed, as the next dish quickly became my favourite. Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio (grilled pork and deep fried spring rolls served with rice vermicelli and salad) was a great mix of both flavour and texture; the crunchy spring rolls complementing the softness of the rice vermicelli wonderfully well. Once again I was pleasantly surprised by how generous the serving was, and I was already feeling extremely
Last up was the Pho Tai Bo Vien, a rice noodle beef soup with succulent beef slices, beef meatballs, coriander and onions. Pho is a stapledish in any Vietnamese restaurant, and U& I’s version of the dish held up admirably in comparison to the other options available incontent, with one dish to go.
Perth, with one big difference: you can’t get Pho anywhere else at 4am in the morning.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with how well U & I Café has been set up. With two dedicated owners (one of whom is the head chef, and is in the kitchen 12 hours a day, every day of the year), U & I takes advantage of a fantastic location and a complete lack of alternatives past 10pm. Not only are they providing great food at outrageously low prices, patrons can come in off the street and enjoy a drink at any time of day (thanks to their 24/7 liquor license). If you are landing in Perth after catching the red-eye, stumbling out of a Northbridge nightclub, or just up late and needing a good-food fix, U & I should be your first port of call.

By Nic Ingram
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