Beneath the gleaming towers on Hunter Street in this towns financial and legal district is a hidden little gem tucked away in the basement venue known as Bar Hunter. It’s a bar that mainly attracts the corporate skirts and suits that work in the vicinity, settling in for a meeting liquid lunch in a dark corner or perhaps a tasty feed at Bò 7 Món Thanh Tâm, a Vietnamese restaurant I reckon is one of the better ones in this neck of the woods.
Sitting in the dark windowless space gives the feeling that it’s always after midnight and the chirpy guy running the show has a perpetual smile on his face as he shuffles around delivering his modern Viet meals to the hungry crowds.
The quail comes cooked two ways – salt & pepper or tamarind. I chose the tamarind and relished every sticky and sour mouthful of the tiny bird. There’s no glamorous way of eating this so forgo the cutlery and jump in, fingers and all.
The tasty spring roll vermicelli comes a little more puffed than usual and the grilled betel leaf is a flavour-packed finger-stub of mince wrapped and grilled in la lot. All washed down with an iced coffee that packs some grunt. I watched how these are made and am astonished with the inch of condensed milk and inch of coffee syrup in each cup, topped up with milk of course and frantically mixed with ice. A serious caffeine and sugar hit.
The classic crispy pancake with its innards of prawn, pork and bean sprouts is quite good as is the $10 meal deal of crispy chicken, tomato rice and fried wontons. The sauce with the wontons virtually glows in the dim light with its unnatural redness and its flavour is like watered down plum jam. Not sure about that one.
Luk lac beef cubes are always a favourite of mine and as tasty as they are here I’m not a great fan of using meat tenderisers. The fibres in the meat pieces were so broken down they barely required chewing and the thickened glaze gave them that Cantonese shopping centre foodhall appearance.
Grilled pork chop is another favourite that’s almost crusted with zingy lemongrass and a side of shredded pork, pickled veg and tomato rice. Let’s not forget that runny fried egg. Sadly there’s no pork cake but I’m more than happy with this one.
Coming at the peak of lunch trade may be a bit of a struggle as you queue for a table and endure a little erratic service but if you want peace and quiet and the whole restaurant to yourself, try the 1.30-2pm time slot.Bò 7 Món Thanh Tâm 50 Hunter Street Sydney 2000 02 9223 6511 Mon-Wed 10am-7pm Thurs-Fri 10am-8pm Sat-Sun booking only hunterbar.com.au