Van Expresso Bar – Vietnamese with a French twist
The Clovelly food scene has gained a new star recruit in Van Expresso Bar. The restaurant/café, which serves Vietnamese food with a French twist, moved into the old trophy store next door to Out of the Blue on Clovelly Road last November.
Chef and owner Anna Bach-Cuc Kellett and her partner Vladimir Vujovic are the same couple who own Young Alfred in Circular Quay and previously owned Love Supreme in Paddington. Vladimir also founded Arthur’s Pizza back in the ‘90s.
Upon reading the Van menu, one could be forgiven for being a bit confused about what type of cuisine it’s actually serving up. Anna said most first-time diners are.
To use a sporting metaphor, if the neighbourhood’s food scene was a footy team, Out of the Blue would be the salt of the earth front-rower who never lets you down and Van Expresso would be the mercurial halfback with a bagful of tricks up his sleeve.
The all-day menu is no doubt rooted in Vietnamese methods, but there are also French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Thai influences. We were treated to dishes such as pork and prawn dumplings, smoked trout salad with wonton crackers, crab and prawn spring rolls, and the market fish curry with a sweet rice bun. For dessert, we had a rice chia pudding with coconut and seasonal fruits.
The verdict? Van Expresso serves up some of the best food I have had in some time. The pork and prawn dumplings were a standout performance in a winning team, but the man of the match award had to be given to the fish curry and the perfectly contrasting sweet rice bun that accompanied it.
When I enquired about the menu’s influences, Anna had a simple answer: “It’s Anna!”
A lifetime in the hospitality industry, a French and Vietnamese background and time spent in Southeast Asia has culminated in a unique and versatile menu that plays outside the boundaries. Van also does breakfast, and this is where Anna’s family’s influence really shows in the form of crepes, omelettes and brioche served with anchovy and crème fraiche.
I was impressed to learn that Anna doesn’t have a freezer on the premises, but not overly surprised given the quality of the food we ate. All the ingredients are locally sourced and this means that the Van menu must change every three months.
Predictably, Van Expresso doesn’t take bookings, but while you wait for a table their talented mixologist Fabio will fix you one of Van’s signature cocktails such as the fruity ‘Van With Me’, made with Wyborowa vodka, lychee puree, lemon, rose, plum sake and palm jelly. We visited Van on a Wednesday and even on a school night there was a fun energy about the cosy bar.
Van is sure to become a popular date spot. It’s intimate but you’re not packed in like sardines and the mood is set by summery techno beats, dark timber furniture and low hanging lights. There’s also an impressive collection of wines.
In opening Van Expresso, Anna said she wanted to bring some colour to the neighbourhood, and with her unique, playful menu and vibrant atmosphere she has certainly achieved this.
Van Expresso Bar
Address 3/272 Clovelly Road
Facebook Van Expresso
Phone 02 8054 5287
Open Tue-Sun 7am-3pm and 5-10pm
Prices Breakfast $9-25, All-Day $8-30, Dessert $6-8, Cocktails $16-18
Cards Master, Visa, AMEX