Pho To Go? You could make light about their catchy slogan but there’s nothing lightweight about the food served up in this Vietnamese restaurant. The street-friendly name conjures up a fast food snacky feel but it is anything but that. In the highly competitive food service industry it sounds like a half-hearted attempt to stop the punters sneaking past to McDonald’s. Pho Restaurant sounds just fine as it is.
The arrival of the mouthwatering starter of Cha Gio spring rolls in peanut sauce will soon take the ‘Go’ out of the title because one bite and you won’t feel like leaving the establishment in a hurry. Served with lettuce and herbs it introduces you to the milder palette of this part of Southeast Asia. Beware! The portions are quite large so don’t make the mistake of over ordering as I did with the main dish of Vermicelli rice noodles in lemon grass and side dish of Goi Ngo Sen.
The Vermicelli rice noodles are an exquisite understatement of lemon grass and chillies perfectly complimented with king prawns, bean sprouts and peanuts. That extra vegetable spring roll in the main course will make it a meal for a big stomach if you also have that side dish. But a delicious one all the same. That Goi Ngo Sen side dish introduces the uninitiated to tangy lotus stems, green beans and sesame seeds Vietnamese-style. The chicken and prawn version I ordered was even cooler on the stomach than the the hearteningly mild main course. These three dishes a much recommended choice for those who seek some variation on their plate and palette.
It’s interesting to note the number of restaurants that feel the need to compete with the likes of McDonald’s and Nandos for passing custom when surely marketing your own international delicacies as high street one-offs would be more effective and create its own niche. Like Pho they are in danger of getting lost in their own identity if they go too far the wrong route. Ultimately, comparing international cuisine is a big ask but this marks high against every London restaurant I have visited in 2016. It gives one the quality of experience and diner satisfaction that ticks every box where pleasant memories are concerned. You’ll leave with a feeling of ‘OK, what out there can match Vietnamese cuisine on a reasonable budget?’ But I still feel they need to take the ‘Go’ out of Pho for a title that sits well.