When Vietnamese street food chain Pho* landed on my doorstep I was super excited to head in and try the cuisine. Vietnam has been high up on my travel wish-list for years now but I’ve never quite made it that far. Gavin visited not long before we met and since hearing about his trip, I’m even more fired up to go and explore this part of the world. One thing that has always worried me about visiting South East Asia is the food part because I can be quite fussy and I am not adventurous in the slightest. With restaurants like Pho popping up and offering authentic Vietnamese dishes this gave me a taster of what I can expect and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Pho (pronounced Fuh) is a family-run business serving great value and healthy Vietnamese street food. First opened in 2005 they have branched out with over 25 restaurants all across the UK. They specialise in the Vietnamese national dish Pho which is a Vietnamese soup made from beef stock, noodles and spices with varying meats and fish added. All the food served in the restaurant is authentic and made fresh on site every single day. Obviously I can’t comment on the authenticity having never been to Vietnam, but Gavin said this was the best Pho he had tasted since his visit and he was most excited about the fact that they serve Hanoi Beer!
For starters we tried the Nem Nuóng (homemade pork & lemongrass meatballs with lettuce & herbs to wrap & dip), Bò lá lõt (beef wrapped in betal leaves, served with rice vermicelli sheets and nuoc cham), Nem Hai San (large crispy spring roll of king prawn, crab and pork) and the Chae Giò (crispy spring rolls served with lettuce & herbs to wrap and dip). Everything was absolutely delicious but the stand out starter for me was the Bò lá lõt which was to die for. The meat, spices and noodles all complimented each other perfectly and I could have easily eaten the whole plate and then some.
For the mains we wanted to try a bit of everything so we of course chose one of the Pho to try, opting for the chicken breast in chicken broth with king prawns as an extra. All of the pho are served with a side plate of fresh herbs for you to add as you please. An essential part of eating pho is tailoring the dish to your taste buds with the additional herbs and sauces on the table adding an extra dimension to the dish. On the table you will find chilli paste to add a kick, fish sauce for extra saltiness and garlic vinegar for sourness. I love that you can tailor the dish to your own personal taste and even the broth on its own was absolutely divine.
We also tried a handful of other mains including Chicken Pho Xào (wok fried flat rice noodles with lemongrass, chilli, Asian greens and chicken pieces), Com Tam Dac Biet with Chargrilled Pork (rice bowl topped with wok-fried Chinese leaf, radish, cucumber and pickles, finished with peanuts, herbs and fresh chillies), Chicken Cà-ri (rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with veggie & mushrooms, topped with nuts and served with broken rice). Each dish was absolutely divine, the meat was cooked perfectly and every single dish had an intriguing selection of flavours which complimented each other perfectly.
It’s safe to say we were pretty full by this point so we put aside some leftovers to take home, making sure to leave room for dessert. Pho have a small dessert menu with a handful of light, refreshing options to finish off a big meal. We tried the Chuoi Chien (banana fritter with ice cream), the Bánh sô-cô- la Truffle (chocolate truffle slab served with green tea ice cream), and the Kem Sorbet in mango, strawberry and fresh basil. The sorbets were all delicious and perfect after the mammoth amount of food we had just eaten but the green tea ice cream was up there with some of the best ice cream I have ever had.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by everything I tasted and found all the different flavours really complimented each other. Considering how fussy I am with food, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and I cannot wait to go back and try out more of the menu. I was also super impressed with how many vegetarian and gluten free options are available for a high street chain. If you find yourself near a Pho make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to try for yourself.