A Feast At Pho
Anne Flaherty enjoyed the new Vietnamese restaurant
The Vietnamese street food restaurant Pho has opened its doors at 134 Chiswick High Road and so far seems to generating a lot of local interest.
Pho was opened by husband and wife team Stephen and Juliette Wall in Clerkenwell in 2005 after they travelled to Vietnam and fell in love with the food.
The restaurant used to be a cafe and the interior could not be more different, it's been extended and refurbished with exposed brick walls, leather banquettes and a very nice selection of wicker-style lamps. We were warmly welcomed and shown to a table at the rear of the restaurant. The staff are very friendly and happy to guide diners through the menu if they are not familier with the concept of Vietnamese street food.
Pho specialises in the national dish of Vietnam, pho (the soup is pronounced fuh but the restaurant is pronounced Foh). It's a nutritious and aromatic noodle soup. The idea is that you are presented with a large bowl of soup stock and noodles, to which you add from a choice of meats, (steak or brisket), chicken, tiger prawns, tofu, or home made beef meatballs. A large wooden ladle and a plate of fresh herbs including mint and coriander, come on the side. You then add condiments, chilli paste for a kick, fish sauce for saltiness, garlic vinegar for sourness, to taste. The soups range in price from £7.95 to £10.50 for the 'house special' of tiger prawns, tofu, and flash fried steak in beef stock.
Also on the menu you find healthy Vietnamese street foods like fresh spring and summer rolls, spicy salads, Asian curries, Vietnamese coffees and beers, and a cocktail list made with Son Tinh spirits, imported for the restaurant from Vietnam.
We started with a selection of homemade pork and lemongrass meatballs, with lettuce and herbs to wrap and dip, some fried baby squid with a salt, pepper and lime dip, a shredded chicken salad with herbs, peppers and a chilli ginger dressing, and some prawn crackers. We all shared from the assorted plates- crunch from the salad, a lovely lime tang from the squid which was battered with cornflour, and the very delicious meatballs which had just the right amount of lemongrass, not overpowering the delicate pork.
To drink I had a glass of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, and we ordered an apple,mint and lime juice and an Iced Tea. The fresh juices are wonderful pick-me-ups, and there are eight to choose from, ranging from coconut, pineapple and apple, to apple, beetroot and carrot. There is fresh mint tea, flower teas such as jasmine, or Vietnamese beer, and a small wine list, four whites, four reds, a rose, a Prosecco and a Vodka. A wide range of Vietnamese cocktails, made with Son Tinh liquer or clear rice spirit sounded appealing- maybe for the next visit.
Pho house special
My husband ordered the Pho house special -Pho dac biet- while I ordered Pho Xao, a dish of wok fried noodles with chicken and prawns. These are rice noodles with lemongrass, chilli, and Asian greens and come served with beansprouts and special sweet-sour Nuoc Cham sauce. My son ordered the Ca-ri, a Vietnamese curry with chicken, veggies and topped with nuts, served with 'broken' rice, which is basically steamed rice.
Curry at Pho
The food was a revelation to me- I am not a great person for spicy foods and was concerned that I would find it too hot. The staff explained that it is not as spicy as Thai cooking and relies more on flavourful stocks and herbs, though most dishes are served with chopped red chillis so beware if you don't like them.
My wokfried noodles were a little salty - possibly too much soy sauce- so I sent them back and asked for them to come back served plain so that I could add sauces to my own taste. This was done quickly and efficiently. My husband loved his hearty bowl of Pho but the dish of curry was the big success- it was sweet and creamy with just a slight kick and it wasn't long before we were all dipping into the sauce. I would definitely order this next time. Mu daughter ordered a bowl of Pho from the children's menu - colouring pencils and paper came to occupy her while she waited for the food.
Noodles with beansprouts and Nuoc cham sauce
You can also order side dishes of stir-fry morning glory (a type of spinach), or an Asian style salad bowl, or green beans and supersnaps in a mild peanut dressing.
Desserts were exotic- my son loved his banana fritter served with a choice of either honey and ginger or coconut ice cream. There's a pandan pancake with toasted coconut, which sounds amazing, or a chocolate truffle slab with green tea ice cream. We opted for mango sorbet, and a selection of Macupono coconut and honey and ginger ice creams. They were a pleasing end to a very very nice meal.
Vietnamese coffee - Ca phe- served with condensed milk or served black ( very strong) or the aforementioned selection of teas are on offer, but we felt we had dined, not only well, but wisely, and bid our goodbyes, promising to return soon.
April 4, 2014