I found that most British restaurants’ strong point lies in main dishes and by the time starters are considered let’s just say their freezers are brimming with bits and pieces that need chucking in the deep fat fryer. Far Eastern restaurants are especially guilty of serving greasy starters and in this light Pho is a trailblazer.
Just look at Goi Cuon Tom (£4.45) which is fresh summer rolls with prawns and fresh herbs. Not a hint of oil in sight of this fresh, crunchy, herby filling wrapped in light and chewy rice paper. Most starters are served with a choice of nuoc cham, which is a Vietnamese dipping sauce, or peanut sauce.
For those of you who crave spring rolls the vegetarian Cha Gio Chay (£4.45) is available. Gluten intolerant suffers can rejoice because the menu is completely gluten free. A few dishes use soy sauce but those can be pointed out and the appropriate substitutes can be used instead if requested.
You will definitely see the five elements and Mahābhūtan principles come into play once you taste Goi Ga (£5.75) which is a chicken salad with peppers, Asian herbs and chili and ginger dressing. Sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. It’s all in there.
By now most people know what Pad Thai is an the equivalent in Vietnam is called Pho Xao. If you’re looking for a different spin on the aforementioned Bun Cha Gio Bo Xao Sa (£8.45) is worth a try. You’ll have a hard time finishing off this heaving bowl of food which is filled with delicately flavoured lemongrass beef, vermicelli rice noodles, stir fried topping, fresh herbs, a veggie spring roll and peanuts.
No meal would be complete without a bowl of Pho (£7.25 – £8.45) which is the national dish of Vietnam. Every day the restaurant makes the stock from scratch that aromatically fills the air with star anise and other spices. What makes this bowl of soup so much fun to eat is the fact that you can tweak it to your taste thanks to the side plate served along with it. Whether you would like more Asian basil, chili, mint leaves, lime or bean sprouts, it’s up to you.
If you like Thai curry, you will adore a Vietnamese one too. Plenty of vegetables, e.g. mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and celery, and chicken pieces in a coconut based sauce made Com Ga Cari (£8.75) a very filling plate of food – my favourite of the meal. A word of caution though, if you don’t like butt-spankingly hot food, pick the regular option, not the spicy one.
In the beverage department freshly squeezed juices are available. Interesting concoctions, such as apple, mint and lime juice, can be found but my personal favourite is the plain carrot juice (£3.20) which tasted like nectar of the gods and best of all there was no fibrous gunk swishing at the bottom of the glass.
Pho is the first Vietnamese restaurant that opened in London that just specialises in pho and other street food. Admittedly, I’ve never eaten Vietnamese before and am not able to judge its authenticity. The food is good though!
8/10: Fresh, healthy and tasty. What more could you ask for?
9/10: The principle of abundance is evident in the reasonably priced food yet quality remains uncompromised.
8/10: Charming and attentive.
5/10: People who regularly seek comfort in food will have a hard time squeezing into a cubicle.
6/10: The basic décor is boxy and rustic but it’s a trendy place to be and it can get quite rowdy. Clientele appears to be mostly under 40.
8/10: If you’re tired of your local Indian or Thai restaurant why not try some Vietnamese? With no item on the menu even reaching the £10 mark it’s a must.
163-165 Wardour Street
P.S. I was a guest of Pho.