Review: Pho Restaurant at Spitalfields Market
Published 2 September 2012
This is the restaurant that has brought the Vietnamese noodles that it is named after into the mainstream food scene in London. Previously, you had to visit ethnic Vietnamese restaurants, most of them centred around Old Street and Kingsland Road, for a good bowl of authentic pho.
Now, with Pho and their various branches across London, good authentic noodles in a traditional beef stock are readily available. I last wrote about Pho two years ago, when I visited their Great Titchfield Street branch. Since then, I’ve been to Pho many times, and each time the food has been as great as that first time. I don’t know how they do it! Recently, I was given the opportunity to try out their newest branch, just across the road from Spitalfields Market.
This new branch is a quaint little restaurant, and packed full on a Thursday evening. The tables are quite tightly packed together, but it never got too loud or echo-y. With big windows peering out into the street, the tables by the window are great for a bit of people watching.
As usual, I went for my standard Goi Cuon Tom, fresh summer rolls with prawns and fresh herbs. You can’t go wrong with this – and it’s a great starter because the rolls are so light, refreshing, and with a delicious hint of mint flavour. In addition, we went for some Cha Gio, fried pork sping rolls. This is another popular Vietnamese starter, and not to be missed. It’s quite different from a Chinese spring roll – not hard or crispy skinned but with a meatier flavour to it.
I continued with some Pho Tai Lan – this is the famous traditional pho noodles, but with the steak flash fried with garlic, which is apparently the Hanoi style of pho. The noodles came with some fresh beansprouts, herbs, and chillies to add to your broth as you wish. Personally, I prefer my beansprouts a bit soggy and cooked – so if you’re like me, add your beansprouts right away to the bowl of Pho and let it slowly cook in the steaming broth while you tuck in to the noodles and beef.
Apart from the traditional pho noodles in beef broth, they also do hot and spicy soup noodles, as well as dry Bun noodles with nuoc cham sauce to pour, and wok friend noodles. So there is a variety of noodles – something for everyone. I’ve had the spicy noodles before as well as the Bun noodles, and both are equally tasty. But the traditional pho noodle is still my favourite.
For dessert, nothing beats the Chuoi Chien – banana fritters with ice cream. It’s a great combination of flavours – sweet banana in a slightly salty deep fried batter. Crunchy batter with chewy banana and soft ice cream. The warm fritters with the cold ice cream. This dish is full of contradictions – yet it goes well together.
Overall, there’s not much difference between the various Pho locations – The Spitalfields branch of Pho is especially convenient for after an afternoon of visiting the market next door looking for vintage items. They’re all to the same high standards and you won’t leave disappointed if you’re after some authentic pho!