Monday, 20 August 2012

Pho, Wardour Street

Pho's a Vietnamese cafe which has 6 branches in London and one in Brighton. Its first restaurant was opened 7 years ago after a husband and wife team went backpacking and fell in love with the food and culture in South East Asia. They quit their marketing jobs when they got back to the UK, hired some Vietnamese chefs and now they have 7 restaurants.

Pho, the eponymous dish, is a clear broth containing rice noodles and beef or chicken, usually with herbs, beansprouts and chilli on the side that the eater can add themselves.

I have eaten at Pho a couple of times before, but usually only for a really quick diner, so when I was invited by the PR, I had an opportunity to try the whole experience. Ok, it was the free food that got me.

I had the prawn summer rolls to begin with and my dining companion had the chicken summer rolls. The prawn rolls were good, if a bit slimy and drippy. Maybe that's what they're supposed to taste like, but it was a weird change from other summer rolls I have had. I made liberal use of the sweet chilli dipping sauce. It was a perfectly edible starter. Not mega exciting, but pleasant. 

Then, onto mains. There's a large list of all the various types of pho you could have, a large portion being all the combinations of cow products you could have, which for some reason always amuses me greatly (I can imagine the conversation that prompted this: 'For fuck's sake, I didn't want the brisket and meatballs, I wanted the STEAK and meatballs!')

I had the super-duper combination of ALL THE COW, with brisket, steak and meatballs. My friend had the chicken pho. I was too much of a wuss to put the accompanying chilli in because last time I went, I chucked it all in and had to sit very quietly for ten minutes until my head stopped exploding. The pho was lovely. It didn't skimp on either noodles or meat, it had plenty of flavour. The only thing I did find was that the soup got really salty towards the end. My friend had the chicken pho, and all I could get out of her was that it was 'very nice'. Illuminating. According to an article I read in The Guardian, in Vietnam, they have pho for breakfast, which I still can't get my head around. You're also supposed to eat it quickly, which I can't do, so the sheer volume means that it will inevitably go cold and the noodles will become 'water-logged', apparently, but as a slow eater, I'm used to that.

For dessert, banana fritters with honey and ginger ice cream. Fried banana could never be a bad thing and they fried it well, and the ice cream was delicious - I've had some of their other ice cream before and they're all delicious and interesting enough for me to not get bored of by the second scoop. With them, we had some rice wine, which on first sip, well, they were quite a lot stronger than we were expecting, but as we got used to it, they were good to have with dessert, and as the ice melted, they mellowed. The plum in particular was a welcome change to uber-sweet dessert wine.

To summarise: Pho is somewhere casual that you can turn up at in Soho that doesn't have massive queues for a nice dinner (there might be a bit of a wait sometimes though). It's good, simple food and it's no-fuss. It's somewhere to take your mates, or even a date, but there's not a lot of space in there - I mean, they pack the tables quite tight, in true Soho style. But if you don't mind that, it's fine.

Though they may have been trying extra hard to please me, it wasn't a big departure from normal because service is always quick and friendly. So I will continue to go back there as it's consistent, delicious and despite being somewhat crammed into their Soho branch, it's a relaxing place.

8/10

I was invited to eat at Pho.

I nicked photos of the food off their website because mine would have been shit.

Pho on Urbanspoon Square Meal

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