Food review: A splash of colour with your coffee

Jim Rose, owner of the newly opened Nam Song Coffe House on Fulwood Road
Jim Rose, owner of the newly opened Nam Song Coffe House on Fulwood Road

Dashing into the Năm Sông coffee bar in monsoon weather for a late lunch was like walking into a wave of sunshine and colour.

Everyone else in Broomhill had the same idea, it seems, and the place was packed with people chatting, eating and drinking.

Julia's pho noodle soup at Nam Song coffee house, Broomhill

Julia's pho noodle soup at Nam Song coffee house, Broomhill

The Vietnamese coffee shop is split into two seating areas, one with tables and chairs and the other with cushions on the floor.

Everywhere is bright colour, dominated by orange, and the ceiling is filled with brightly-coloured lanterns. Vintage Vietnamese posters festoon the walls.

The reason for all the orange is that owner Jim Rose was shocked to hear about the continuing effects of Agent Orange chemical weapons that the American troops buried when they left.

The business supports the work of the Kianh Foundation, a UK-based charity that helps families with children with disabilities in the central Hoi An region.

Kate's salad at Nam Song coffee house, Broomhill

Kate's salad at Nam Song coffee house, Broomhill

Cutlery and napkins are kept on the tables in empty Longevity brand sweet condensed milk cans and condensed milk is a key ingredient in the Vietnamese coffee they serve.

The coffee he tried on a trip to Vietnam inspired young Sheffielder Jim to set up Năm Sông when he returned.

He said: “I went to Loughborough University to do business but I never really knew what I wanted to do, except I wanted to own a business.

“Vietnam is the nicest country I’ve ever been to. The people are great, the food’s amazing and the coffee is fantastic.

Vietnamese-style filter coffee at Nam Song coffee house in Broomhill

Vietnamese-style filter coffee at Nam Song coffee house in Broomhill

“My girlfriend doesn’t like coffee but when she tried it with condensed milk she really liked it, so I thought maybe we could open a place selling it here.

“It’s good because if you like strong coffee you can have it black. For some people the condensed milk is a bit sweet, although it’s great with ice, the best iced coffee in the world.”

As previously reported in the Telegraph, the ex-Silverdale School student went to learn the trade at Marmaduke’s in the city centre before he opened up his own place in a corner shop in the middle of Broomhill’s increasingly foodie main area.

It has been open since mid-February and the place is becoming increasingly popular, helped by a coffee offer throughout May.

Jim Rose, owner of the newly opened Nam Song Coffe House on Fulwood Road

Jim Rose, owner of the newly opened Nam Song Coffe House on Fulwood Road

Jim said: “We’re doing alright, getting busier and busier. At the start people were a bit tentative, with us being a Vietnamese coffee house.

“We had a lot of regulars coming in every morning, then last month every coffee from 7.30 to 10.30am was £1.

“When people came in to try the coffee and see the place, they liked it and really came back. That’s really worked and we were much more full in the morning and then it carried on into the afternoon.”

Both my friend Kate and I were impressed by the coffee, which is grown in Vietnam and then roasted in Sheffield by Frazer’s.

I tried the coffee with condensed milk, which was too sweet for me, but tasted good, and it would work well iced.

Kate’s black coffee was perfect, really good strength but without a trace of bitterness or harshness.

The coffee is placed in a mini filter and holder that sits on top of the cup. When it’s finished dripping through, you take the lid off and use that to place the holder on.

There’s also a range of other more familiar coffees, Vietnamese and flavoured teas, soft drinks and even beers.

The menu has been kept deliberately simple, because Jim wants to remain as a coffee house, rather than a restaurant.

One of his chefs creates spring rolls at home that will appear on the menu at some point, and Jim is also looking at stocking the Sheffield-made brand of Yee Kwan ice cream. One of the flavours is Vietnamese coffee, after all.

Until then, the choices are between bánh mì, which is a French baguette with a range of fillings, a salad made from the same choice of items, or pho noodle soup, again with a choice of ingredients.

Neither Kate nor I fancied the baguettes, presumably a leftover from French colonial rule, but Jim told me later that there’s been a bit of trial and error but now some customers think they’re the best sandwiches they’ve ever tasted.

“We just want to concentrate on making everything the best we can,” he added.

I went for pho soup, choosing coconut curry tofu, beansprouts, Thai basil, lettuce and spring onions to go in a meat broth.

Kate tried a salad with Năm Sông pork, edamame pate, coriander, carrots, chillis, rocket and sriracha garlic sauce.

Vegetarians and vegans are very well catered for here but fish lovers only get a choice of prawns in the soup.

Kate’s salad was fantastically fresh tasting and the pork was pleasantly chewy.

The edamame pate was gorgeous, zingy and also fresh, and the garlic sauce gave everything a little punch.

My soup tasted deliciously healthy and the subtle flavours grew bolder once the spicy tofu coating and some chopped fresh red chillis served on the side started to do their work.

I had a large one but really didn’t need to supersize.

Our bill came to £17.95.