A cold and miserable Monday night found us in Pho where we’d been invited to go and try their Vietnamese food, see why people were so excited for their opening and learn how to actually pronounce Pho. Turns out the restaurant is called Pho and said “fo” but the dish itself is “fuh” and when it comes to pronouncing the menu items, it’s pretty much say it as you see it!
We started off the evening with two recommended cocktails, a Phojito made with a clear rice spirit instead of the usual rum, mint, lime and soda £6.95, and a Rose Apple Bellini with a splash of rose apple liqueur £6.50. The Phojito was strong, eliciting a definite sugar from Jacqui (which didn’t stop her from drinking it all!) and my Bellini was, well interesting. It reminded me a little bit of a florally cider which is probably not the intention! Again, I managed to drink it all.
In an attempt to provide an overall view of the menu, we ordered a lot and we were given the option to have the starters come separately or as they were ready. As previously mentioned, it was a cold and miserable evening and we were edging dangerously close to hangry territory so opted for asap. First to arrive was the prawn crackers with sweet chilli sauce, £2.95. Hard to review prawn crackers as they’re pretty much the same everywhere and you know exactly what you’re getting. These were big, fresh and crunchy which added a different texture to the rest of our food.
Then everything else arrived in one neverending stream of food! Crispy chicken wings with a side pot of sriracha, £6.75, were good, definitely hot and crispy, opinion was divided on the sriracha. They weren’t the best wings we’ve ever had but they were good. The baby squid with a salt, pepper and lime dip were really good. A small pot contains a sprinkling of salt and pepper with a few slices of chilli (that we were strongly recommended NOT to eat) that you squeeze your lime into, mix and then dip your squid in. Such a simple idea and it works perfectly! The squid was in small pieces with a light delicate batter, just right for a rubbish chopsticks user like me and dipping into the spice mix meant you got a decent amount of zing on each piece. Really good.
A veggie version of the papaya salad arrived, on the menu as being served with chicken or prawn but we opted for neither. Jacqui is a big fan of this dish and rated it as good rather than amazing, with Oli’s Thai being her benchmark. Stir fried morning glory (water spinach) in garlic, £5.95 was next to be presented and we loved this. Fresh, green, garlicky and with a great umami flavour, almost meaty in the mouth. I would happily eat just a bowl of this with some steamed rice!
Finally the pho! I’d opted for pho dac biet which came with king prawns, chicken and flash fried steak with garlic in a beef broth, £11.25. That broth was amazing. Simple, rich flavours complemented with meaty, decent sized king prawns, poached and shredded chicken, and soft slices of steak. A side dish arrives so that you can flavour your pho as you wish; thai basil, coriander, chilli, lime and beansprouts. I added a selection of each then decided to be brave and drizzle some of the on the table chilli in. Word of advice, mix it well in! My mouth was tingling for a few minutes!
Our other pho was from their hot and spicy section, a beef brisket with a side dish of shrimp chilli paste £9.50, for you to add according to taste. When it arrives, it is glossy and red, so very very chilli red which made us a little nervous! Surprisingly the flavour wasn’t as aggressive as we thought, more of a warming heat and well balanced.
At this point we were starting to struggle a little but they do doggie bags! So if you do over-order like we did, the waiting staff will happily bag it up for you to take home and they do offer a regular take away service as well which is handy for those messy eaters who’d rather slurp and splash their noodles in the privacy of their own home.
We couldn’t leave without at least checking out the dessert menu and of course that led to a banana fritter with honey and ginger ice-cream and a chocolate truffle slab with green tea ice-cream. Again, banana fritters are hard to get wrong but we both agreed the ice-creams were really good. The truffle slab was also a lot lighter than you’d expect and didn’t have that death by chocolate feel.
Also on the menu, but not sampled by us on this occasion is a decent selection of soft drinks, something frequently lacking from restaurants. There’s coconut water, straight, with pineapple or cucumber as well as eight different fruit and veg juice blends. If you’d rather get busy with the fizzy, there’s also your regular trademarked drinks alongside homemade lemonade, spicy lemonade with ginger and mint and a green tea lemonade.
Children are also well catered for with their own menu of stripped down dishes such as noodles with beansprouts and mangetout, a simple pho, curry with rice and a dish of skewered pork meatballs with prawn crackers and both satay and sweet fish sauce for dipping.
Overall, Pho is good. Good food, good atmosphere, good cocktails and great flavours. It’s not a fine dining destination but neither does it pertain to be. Great for a meal out with friends, a pre-cinema trip or an at home in your pj’s takeaway and it does exactly what you want it to, well.