On the 3rd January I visited Pho in Soho on Wardour Street. This restaurant is named after Vietnam’s national dish, Pho is noodles and often beef or chicken in a stock that takes hours of preparation. The soup is served as a blank canvas and you flavour it with mint leaves, cilantro, chilli and fish sauce which are all served on the side. Fresh, flavourful and extremely healthy. I had heard of Pho before but had been slightly sceptical with it being a chain restaurant, however, I had only heard good things about Pho, and thought, as it’s only a chain of 6 restaurants, this could be an exception.
Unfortunately, Pho isn’t a far cry from Wagamama. Although I actually enjoy a Wagamama now and again, but if I were to eat my way through Japan, I’d probably return to the UK realising that it’s just a watered down version of what I ate abroad. This is exactly my opinion on Pho. I’ve been to Vietnam and the taste of the dishes here didn’t transport me back to a bustling street corner in Hanoi, where big vats bless every street corner, bubbling up fresh Pho.
For a starter we shared fresh Goi Cuon Ga- Summer rolls with Chicken. These cost 6 pounds and we were served 2. The chicken didn’t taste fresh, it had an odd ‘off’ taste, but enough flavour was provided by the mint and the lovely dipping sauce called Nuoc Cham, a sweet fish sauce with a hint of lemon and lime.
I ordered a Chicken and Prawn Pho Xao, a flat noodle stir fry which I had with chicken (Ga) and prawns (Thit). The dish was tasty, it just didn’t have the fresh flavour of Vietnam, it tasted more of a stodgy Chinese stir-fry. Furthermore, it was meant to be sprinkled with peanuts, mine had none.
My friend ordered the Pho Tai, a Pho with strips of Beef. The beef was thick and chewy, we both agreed thin, tender slices would have been nicer. She was also served a very meager amount of mint and coriander. I’m used to piling on fresh herbs to the extent that it gives my bowl more height, then leaving it for a while to slowing soak into and infuse the soup. We couldn’t really enjoy this with the few measly sprigs we were served.
The Verdict- If you’ve not had real Vietnamese food before you will probably still enjoy this place. The service wasn’t exceptional, we felt we’d been forgotten about once our orders were taken. But when being served, they seemed friendly enough. The average price of a main meal is 8 pounds, for my starter (shared) and my main meal I spent 11 pounds. Therefore, not too overpriced, but Pho need to be more generous with their fresh herb garnishes and the portion size of their starters!