A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to Pho for a little look at some of their latest creations, newly envisaged after the owner’s returned from a research trip to Vietnam. So I headed along to the Islington location to do exactly that! The first thing that hit me was how deceptive the outside is. Located between Angel tube and Islington Green, the small outer shell gives way to a low-lit cool interior with tables over 2 floors and a small upstairs bar area.
Once seated, we headed straight for the cocktail list and selected a couple of tipples to quench our thirst. I fancied something refreshing and went for the Phojito, a mix of Nep Phu Loc (clear rice spirit), Mint, Lime & Soda. My guest for the evening chose the Hanoi Mule. another classic cocktail with a Pho twist, using Hanoi Vodka, mixed with Fresh Apple, Ginger, Mint & Lime.
Before accepting my invite, I had never been to Pho before. Thankfully Pho’s Head Of Marketing, Libby, was kind enough to join us for the evening and take us through some of the latest and greatest dishes that Pho’s menu has to offer.
We started with a few small dishes. Muc Chen Gion – Tender Fried Baby Squid with a Salt, Pepper & Lime Dip, the Nem Nuong – Grilled Pork & Lemongrass Meatballs and the new and might I add awesome, Nem Hai San – Large Crispy Spring Roll of Tiger Prawn, Crab & Pork with Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce. The Much Chen Gion was a crazy little dish. The squid was really tender and when dipped in the salt, pepper and lime mix, it took on a really refreshing and zingy flavour that left your tastebuds in a frenzy!
The Nem Hai San, as you can probably tell, was my favourite though. At first I wasn’t sure just how the mix of pork, crab and tiger prawn was going to work but it definitely delivered! The crab and pork combo melted in the mouth as soon as it hit the tongue and the tiger prawn was meaty and succulent. Although pretty filling when accompanied by the other dishes!
For our mains we decided that we had better get on board with the Vietnamese national dish, Pho, a steaming bowl of rice noodle soup. There is a long list of variations for this dish at Pho and all sound delicious. The idea behind Pho (the dish) is that you create your own unique flavour, do not fear though, I don’t mean you head to the kitchen and get your hands dirty! Once you’ve chosen your dish, it arrives with a side of fresh herbs, chilli and sauces for use in creating a final flavour that is best suited to your palette.
My decision making on the Pho front was purely down to the inclusion of Steak, Brisket and Meatballs! That’s right, the Pho Bo Combo packs a healthy dose of meaty goodness. Definitely one for the hardcore carnivores. I then added a whole load of chilli, coriander and mint to suit my taste. Genius!
My guest went for the spicy option of Bun Bo Hue. Beware though, this is under the the Hot & Spicy Soup section and there’s a reason for it! It had a mean kick of chilli that will have your nose running within seconds. A great combo though when loaded full of delicious Brisket.
By the time we had finished we were completely stuffed. The Pho was deceptively filling. You think soup and an empty stomach and food cravings comes to mind but not here, especially when you are chucking three types of meat into the mix! I found, just like the starters and the cocktails and their fruit juices, that everything tastes incredibly fresh. Each dish produced some really strong stand out flavours due to the use of some great ingredients and the option of customising your food to suit your style.
We were about to roll ourselves out of the front door when Libby insisted that we couldn’t leave before sampling some of their pudding menu. Laughing through the fear of falling into a food coma at my table I quickly agreed and gave her the green light. It’s a good job I struggle to say no as the pudding was a perfect way to top things off. We shared the Pandan Pancake with Roasted Coconut and Coconut ice cream. Delicious, sweet and cooling, just what you need to calm the inferno in your mouth after the Bun Bo Hue!
The evening was a real eye opener for me as I had never really given any thought to Vietnamese cuisine, apart from the well known Banh Mis that I sampled in Shoreditch last year. It was a refreshing break from the norm with some awesome dishes that really delivered on flavour and are definitely worth sampling if like me, you’d never given Vietnamese a try!
We The Food Snobs x