The scene: Pho’s trendy atmosphere is underscored by funky light fittings and indie background music making it the perfect haunt for the young, good-looking Soho-ites who dine here. A traditional Vietnamese canteen this ain’t.
The menu: We start with goi cuon, veggie summer roles which are as fresh and fragrant as their name would suggest.
Less impressive are the spongy spring rolls which don’t come with nearly enough lettuce or mint. The rest of the meal continues in this hit-and-miss vein. For mains the sweet, spicy goi du du – papaya salad – deserves a special mention as one of the best salads I’ve ever tasted.
My friend’s Pho xao chay, wok fried flat rice noodles with veggies, mushrooms and tofu is tasty, but my own bun tom hue – hot and spicy soup with prawns – lacks punch.
The banana fritters we order for dessert are melt-in-the-mouth delicious but the pandan pancake is a little on the rubbery side. We wash all this down with a cup of Pho’s exclusive, rare chon ca phe – coffee which has been eaten, digested and passed through weasels to enhance its flavour. Despite our reservations the “weasel-poo coffee”, as we take to calling it, is sublimely delicate and aromatic.
Bill please: Starters begin at £3.95 while the cheapest bowl of Pho soup will set you back £6.95. You could easily eat a three-course meal, including alcohol, for under £30.
Verdict: A Vietnamese dining experience to remember – just choose carefully.
163-165 Wardour Street,
W1F 8WN, (02074 343 938; phocafe.co.uk)
Tube: Tottenham Court Rd
– Alison Grinter