Roll'd is suddenly everywhere! The Barkly Square branch opened up towards the end of last year and since then, seems to be doing well. I have visited a few times now ordering different dishes and going at different times of the day or different days. I have two main conclusions, 1) not all Roll'd are created equal, and 2) this place struggles with consistency. So, if it's great one day, might not be so the next but if it was bad, then it might be good the next. It's not a disaster but consistency is a pretty important thing for the discerning Brunswick punter. Let's face it, because it's a chain, no one is going to drive across different suburbs to eat there - they can probably find one closer to them.
This is a really small space and really nicely decorated. In fact, it's one of the more trendy looking Roll'd I have seen. It's also very open, with lots of air and sunlight. It's a space for quick and casual dining. It's a small step above a food court but I really do like the deco here. It opens out into a courtyard of sorts, so you can even eat outside and people watch. I don't think they do high chairs here other than the high bar stools for adults.
The basic funky menu has items that are all given quirky names - but doesn't hide the fact that they are basically rice paper rolls, noodle soups (pho), rice vermicelli and Vietnamese rolls (Banh Mi). The ingredients are usually pretty fresh. The quality of the noodle soup might vary between days, sometimes they are tastier, other times, a bit sweet and diluted. I wondered if it depended on the time of day.
The rice vermicelli dishes here are the highlight for me, especially the version with the pork crackles... CRACKLING with fresh salad (pictured above). So good and so fresh. However, there was one visit when the vermicelli was drowned in fish sauce. Other than that, it has usually been good. The other highlight as pointed by some other Urbanspoon reviewers are the spring rolls here. Robbie likes the vermicelli with the spring rolls but I just can't say no to crackling.
The Banh Mi (Vietnamese Rolls) depends on who's making it and how harried they are. This is where they really seem to struggle with consistency. While the ingredients are still fresh, the quantity and balance of sauces varies quite a bit. Normally, at most Banh Mi places, consistency is not expected because each one is customised. However, with Roll'd, you have set menu items and so, people tend to expect the same thing each time.
Finally, the rice paper rolls - here's the thing. I have seen various Roll'd (not just this one) roll these rolls (sorry - couldn't resist) as early as 7.30am to get it ready for the punters. It is hard to maintain softness to the paper over more than 3 hours. So, I am guessing that depending on the day, it's good to check when they made the rolls. This is tricky and also where consistency might be a problem.
The service is the other thing that's not really consistent here. Firstly, some times they have lots of staff and everyone seems to get a bit confused and other times, they don't have enough staff and the poor things look so harried when they are trying to put the dishes together. Occasionally, the right combination of staff makes everything flow seamlessly. So, perhaps the consistency issue is more a logistics and rostering issue more than quality. The wait staff at the counter is always unfailingly polite and friendly.
This is a good place for a quick meal in between shopping at Barkly Square - a fresh lunch or early dinner. It's all very casual.
What would you like in your Banh Mi?
Essential ingredients are the baguette, butter, pâté, cilantro/coriander, pickled carrots/cabbage/turnip, cucumber slices. mayonnaise, chilli and hoisin or chilli sauce. Some places include crushed peanuts (which I love)
Then there's the fillings depending on what the punter likes. This includes choices from roast pork, grilled pork, barbequed pork, pork meatballs (smashed), pork belly slices, pork floss, pork roles (cha lua), canned sardines, roast chicken slices, even tofu and fried egg in some places. Obviously, most of the versions have some sort of pork combination with a less than cursory nod to punters who might not like pork or can't have pork. In many places in Ho Chi Minh City, banh mi carts will have many of these choices and other than the essential ingredients, punters get to pick one or two fillings to go with their rolls.