Pho first opened in
As of writing, Pho has four branches in
The menu at Pho is centred on the Vietnamese national dish of phở (took me ages to find those accent marks), and the restaurant offers 11 different types of the famous rice noodle soup. There are also a variety dishes like bún chả (vermicelli noodles with greens and various toppings), gỏi (Vietnamese salads), bánh xèo (filled savoury crepes), gỏi cuốn (summer rolls), cari (er...curry), and of course the legendary cà phê chồn a.k.a. weasel "poo" coffee. Unlike at Wagamama, the food at Pho is prepared fresh at each site and is not serviced by a central kitchen.
A side dish of chả giò (fried pork spring rolls, £4.45) was fine, if a bit bland, tasting like it had been cooked some time earlier. The sweet chilli dipping sauce livened things up a touch. But this was ultimately a forgettable dish.
Another side of gỏi cuốn tôm (summer rolls with prawns and herbs, £4.25) was much better. Plump prawns and herbs were wrapped in a translucent rice wrapper. The freshness of this dish really shone through, especially with the liberal addition of coriander and mint.
A main course of phở bò viên (rice noodle soup with beef meatballs and fresh herbs, £7.45 – pictured at the top) didn’t do much for me. The broth had a pleasing mild aroma of star anise, cloves and cinnamon but it tasted watery and lacked any beefy depth of flavour. The beef meatballs were OK but needed a bit more seasoning. At the side of the bowl was an array of sparklingly fresh herbs, fresh lime, chillies and bean sprouts with which you could jazz up your bowl of noodles. The addition of some extra fish sauce and hot sauce worked wonders, lifting the dish significantly.
On another occasion I tried a bún gà huế (hot & spicy soup with chicken, £7.95) and found this to be much better than the meatball phở I tried earlier. The broth it came in was deliciously punchy, with a lovely depth of flavour to it. The sliced chicken breast was also well cooked, retaining its juiciness – no mean feat when you’re cooking in this sort of ‘fast food’ environment. The one let down was the noodles, which seemed to have knitted themselves into a large claggy ball, making it pretty difficult to eat with chopsticks.
I know next to nothing about Vietnamese food, so it's hard to judge whether this is as authentic
Vietnamese street food as Pho claims it is. But who cares? I know what my taste buds are telling me and the food served at Pho is mostly tasty, fresh and a cut above many other places at this price level. On the whole I'd give Pho a cautious thumbs up and I'll certainly be trying more of their menu.
Food: 6 / 10
Service: 7 / 10 No table service, you order at a counter, but staff friendly enough
Ambiance: 5 / 10 (The one I went to was in a shopping centre)