Pho offers up its Vietnamese staples for your work Xmas do on a budget, but with little in the way of festive flourishes.
When I heard Pho was doing a Christmas menu this year, I was intrigued. Could I expect turkey summer rolls, or sprouts fried in soy sauce? Turns out they’ve rejigged their normal menu, whittling down the choices to a few crowd-pleasing favourites: spicy soups, noodles, curry, and of course the titular phở. Pho have also thrown in some Christmas crackers to get you in the Yuletide spirit.
Pho pride themselves on their health-focused menu, and cater for a variety of tastes and dietary requirements.
Most of the dishes are gluten-free, and there’s even an entirely separate vegan set menu. So, there’s something for everyone in your office crew. This is all for the reasonable price of £17.50 for two courses, or £22.50 for three.
Once you’ve attempted (and failed) to make the infuriatingly difficult origami swan from the Christmas crackers, it’s time to move onto the prawn crackers. Or in my case, the vegan “prawn-less” crackers, accompanied by a sweet chilli sauce. Like all the best vegan food, you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. They’re fantastic.
Onto the starters…
…And my favourite part of Vietnamese cuisine: spring and summer rolls. Artfully presented, the staff recommend you wrap the spring rolls in a lettuce leaf first and then dip in the peanut sauce. It’s a mouth-wateringly good hor d’oeurve. I’m feeling healthier by the second eating the summer rolls, but they lacked texture. Crispy onions or honey-fried tofu would complete the canvas of flavour and texture.
Rounding the starters out were wok-fried Chinese leaf in soy sauce and stir-fried morning glory in garlic. These greens were delightful and cooked to perfection. Overall, a great course.
Despite being a lover of Vietnamese cuisine, I’ve never particularly warmed to phở itself. Perhaps the watery soup reminds me a bit too much of sad-looking Christmas leftovers being used to make Lancashire hotpot, but I think it’s more likely I’ve never had a proper authentic experience of it.
Pho’s phở is a lovely veggie broth with chunks of delicious tofu, ideal for wintertime. The vibrant-orange chicken cari is an appropriate counterpart, with the crispy fried egg atop the rice being the icing on the cake – or rather, the egg on the rice. Pho don’t take any risks with these mains, but like a lot of mid-range chain restaurants the familiar experience is perhaps the draw.
To finish, we have the classic banana fritter, with chocolate ice cream, and the ultimate palette cleanser: mango sorbet. It’s a satisfying end to a hearty and wholesome meal.
There’s little in the way of Christmas frills at Pho, but I know plenty of Scrooges for whom this would be a positive. My last office Christmas dinner was at the decidedly un-Christmassy Zheng in Jericho, and it was perfect. Was Pho perfect? No, but its great value for money and healthy takes on Vietnamese classics will keep most punters happy. Good luck with the origami swan.
305 The Westgate, Queen St, Oxford OX1 1PG
We dined as guests of Pho, all views remain our own.