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Friday 19 March 2010

Sluttishly Savoury: Vietnamese foodie fun at Pho

Pho is one of those chains that seems to be quietly taking over the highstreet. For some reason, I always thought of them as a Wagamama-style behemoth - perhaps it was the existence of aWestfield branch that gave me this impression. But, as I learned earlier this week at a fabulous event hosted by Qype, Pho is just a very successful independent and a labour of love for the couple that own it.

I found my way to the Soho branch, tucked away near Oxford Circus in Great Titchfield Street, to find out more about the restaurant, sample the food and try my hand at a bit of Vietnamese cooking.

We were greeted by owners Stephen and Jules, who told us their story. It's the typical corporate whore's dream - give up the day job, go travelling around the world, have a great idea for a business and come back to the UK to make it happen.

Pho (pronounced "fuh", said as if you're dismissing someone's ridiculous suggestion that you own too many shoes), is the national dish of Vietnam. It's a noodle broth, which can contain chicken, beef, prawns or tofu. You also customise it by dunking in fresh mint, coriander, extra chillies or vegetables.

Stephen and Jules are clearly very passionate about the quality of their pho, and by focussing on one particular dish they aim to do it really really well (although there are a few other items on the menu - Pho is a pho restaurant). They told us how they sourced Vietnamese herbs on the Kingsland Road because they couldn't find them anywhere else. They make huge 150 litre vats of beef stock from scratch every day, and everything is made in-house by skilled Vietnamese chefs.

We tried our hand at making some fresh summer rolls, before tucking into the food made by the REAL chefs. My favourite dish was the Goi Du Du - a papaya salad with prawns and a spicy dressing (£5.95). The Pho itself came a pretty close second though. I tried Bun Bo Hue - the hot and spicy brisket beef soup (£7.75). It certainly was spicy, so stick to the regular variety if you're of a sensitive persuasion!

Stephen and Jules fell in love with Vietnamese cuisine on their travels and it's easy to see why - it's moreish, fresh and healthy all at the same time. Pho is doing a great job at making Vietnamese cuisine accessible. I will definitely be popping in for a guilt-free lunch next time I'm getting peckish in Topshop.

3 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 8AX
020 7436 0111

For other branches (Clerkenwell and Westfield), visit the website. Pho is also coming soon to Brighton.


  1. That prawn papaya salad was my favourite too.

  2. Will check them out when I'm there this summer. From the look of it, it's heavenly.


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