Review: Vietnamese Restaurant “Pho”
Published 26 March 2010
I have never been to Vietnam before, but after eating at the Pho restaurant the other day, I had that urge to rush to STA Travel and book myself a flight ticket to Hanoi with the return leg coming back a year later.
In part, this was due to Steven & Juliette Wall’s fairytale story behind Pho, the husband and wife team who, having travelled to Vietnam in 2005, came back to the UK and decided to open Pho after being inspired by the flavours of the Vietnamese cuisine. The name of the restaurant itself, Pho, is pronounced “fuh”, and is the name of a traditional Vietnamese soup noodle dish that is eaten all throughout Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
I was lucky enough to be invited by them & Qype to join a group of London bloggers for a special night to get to know them, their restaurant, and Vietnamese food. Even from initial impressions, it was easy to see that Steven and Juliette have a passion for perfection and high standards, and by all accounts the food at Pho hits that note perfectly. While the menu is limited compared to many more traditional Vietnamese restaurants (e.g. Cay Tre on Old Street), there is still a good selection of noodles to suit all tastes and most importantly they deliver authentic flavour that one would be happy to order again and again with each visit.
While traditional hardcore Vietnamese favourites like tripe and tendon don’t make it onto the noodle menu at Pho, there is the perennial favourite and my personal favourite Pho Bo Dac Biet, which is a combination of steak, brisket, and meatballs with rice noodle in a delicious beef stock soup. For traditional pho noodles, the soup base is probably the most important component, and here at the Pho restaurant at Great Titchfield Street it is made the traditional way, simmering for hours with beef and spices to produce a rich stock but with pure natural flavours.
For those who are less partial to noodles in soup, there is also a great selection of Bun noodles, with my favourite being the Bun Cha Gio Tom which comes with big juicy tiger prawns. Served dry, it comes with a small bowl of nuoc cham, which is a clear sauce that you can either pour over the noodles, or used as a dip. There is also a selection of spicy noodles on the menu which I have tried in the before in the past, but a word of warning that they are truly very spicy, although the chilli sauce comes separate from the noodles so you can tailor the hotness level to your taste. However, what I found was that the strong chilli flavour quickly overpowers the more gentle beef stock, and so nowadays I tend to give the spicy noodles a miss when going to Pho.
While the pho and bun noodle portions are huge (enough to feed two sometimes!), a visit here is never complete without one of their legendary Goi Cuon Tom (fresh summer rolls with prawns) or Cha Gio (fried pork spring rolls). The choice between the two depends if you like a clean natural flavour (go for the summer rolls) or a crispy gob-smacking delight (go for the deep fried spring rolls). I guarantee that whichever you choose you will be tempted to order another portion before your mains arrive.
Lastly but not least, the piddling matter of dessert! While it is clear that Pho excels in the savoury items, its limited dessert menu actually packs quite a punch, and if you still have space after a portion of summer rolls and a beef pho, go for the Chuoi Chien (banana fritters), topped off with honey and ginger ice cream which tastes like they could be homemade.
Nevertheless, with a strong line-up in all three courses that many other restaurants rarely deliver, the next time I visit Pho I will have to eat less for lunch in order to fit all three courses for dinner.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Cost: £6.95 for a typical bowl of Pho noodles, £3.75 for fresh summer prawn rolls
Address: 3 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 8AX (Oxford Circus branch). Other branches at Westfield Shopping Centre and Farringdon/City area
Booking Tel: 020 7436 0111
Picture gallery of the food from our visit to Pho: