Love blossomed into Hackney’s newest Vietnamese restaurant

Owners of Anh Dao met at a refugee camp more than 30 years ago

With Vietnamese restaurants continuing to flourish in the borough, the most recent addition to Hackney’s Little Saigon brings with it another story of survival and hope.

For the founders of Anh Dao – meaning peach blossom – in Kingsland Road, the journey here began more than 30 years ago.

Tram Dao met Peter Rimmer in a refugee camp in West Sussex when she was just 18 years old, after fleeing the post-war Communist regime in Vietnam as one of the ‘boat people’ in 1979.

Peter was a 21-year-old university student in the role of field officer, who was tasked with completing her Home Office documentation and who volunteered his break times to teach her English.

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Now the couple have realised Tram’s lifelong dream of opening a Vietnamese restaurant, complete with authentic food and d�cor shipped in from her home country.

“I’m really looking forward to it, I’m very happy,” said Tram, 49.

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“It feels like everything else along the way has led here,” said her husband.

Tram fled her home of Hai Phong in northern Vietnam on a boat to Hong Kong in 1979 with her 14-year-old sister.

Her parents’ boat sunk in their attempt to escape. She only found out later that they had been saved from the waters by Chinese fishermen.

“I had never been on a boat in my life,” she said.

“It was very scary as it was only me and my sister who was 14.

“I was very happy to come over to England but when I came it was winter time and it looked very miserable. At that time I really missed my family.

“But when I met Peter I was in love straight away.”

The couple appeared in the Daily Express newspaper on April 2, 1980, declaring their love for each other and their plans to wed.

They married in 1984, going on to have five children.

Peter, 52, who is now executive director of environmental charity Groundwork, said the restaurant was the culmination of a lot of work over a long time.

“Whilst there are difficulties in any refugee community there are some successes as well,” he said.

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