If you’ve been keeping your eye on our social medias, you’ll have seen that last week we went to the soft launch of our new favourite vietnamese restaurant, Pho, which has just opened in the Queen St Dining Quarter where Polpo once used to be.
We were bowled (because Pho is served in bowls…get it?) over at the flavours, the noodles and the whole ethos behind Vietnamese eating, so we just had to send over founders Stephen and Juliette Wall a few questions for the latest 10 Question Interview!
- All stories have a beginning, what was life like before you opened your first Pho restaurant?Pretty simple! We were both working in marketing in London but looking for something more. We wanted to start our own business, so we quit our jobs and went travelling around the world in search of inspiration. We definitely found that in all of the amazing pho stalls across Vietnam.
- I have to say, we are so excited to get a Vietnamese restaurant in Exeter like Pho, what attracted you to open in the city? Exeter is a great city with a cool mix of people including locals, tourists and students. Vietnamese food isn’t very accessible in Exeter so we thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce everyone to pho.
- For a complete newbie to Vietnamese cuisine, how would you describe it? For a total newbie we’d say it’s similar to Chinese or Thai but with complex flavours, more contrast of colour and texture and with lots of fresh herbs it’s healthier. We slowly simmer our broths for 12+ hours, and use loads of fresh herbs and spices in our cooking. Another thing to note is that it’s not too spicy, but you can certainly add different levels of spice. That’s the best thing about Vietnamese food – you can tailor it to your own personal tastes, adding in chilli paste for a kick, fish sauce for extra saltiness, lime or garlic vinegar for sourness (all are available at each table). Everyone can eat the same dish in a totally unique way.
- Tell me about the moment you felt inspired to open a Vietnamese restaurant, I believe you were already in Vietnam? It was toward the end of our trip in Vietnam and we’d already been all over the country, having sampled endless amounts of pho. We were sat on high stools in a little pho shop in Ho Chi Minh City, slurping the most amazing bowls of pho bo (beef pho) and we just thought, England needs this!
- Exeter’s Pho is now your 27th restaurant! What do you think makes Vietnamese cuisine so popular? It’s totally adaptable to different tastes and it’s pretty healthy. The use of rice noodles and papers means that it’s largely gluten free. It’s also really tasty and comforting, and it’s a great hangover cure. We think pho is the best noodle soup in the world.
- Vegan dining is becoming increasingly popular, how do you cater for those on a plant based diet? We use very little dairy or egg in our cooking, so all of our vegetarian options are also vegan. In fact a quarter of our menu is suitable for a plant based diet. We find that vegans love our menu because of the variety.
- For those of us who are not quite adept at handling chopsticks, what is the best way to hold them? Any tips? You kind of just have to go for it… don’t worry about looking awkward, just get the noodles in your mouth! (and we do have forks)
- Before we came to visit your new restaurant in Exeter, I was told the peanut sauce is amazing. I can confirm this, it is delicious! What’s the recipe? It’s a secret recipe passed down from our chef’s mum…
- Pho is named after the Vietnamese national dish, it is your speciality too! What goes into making a good Pho? TIME! It takes at least 12 hours to simmer all the amazingness that goes into the broth. Once you get the broth just right, the depth of flavour is just incredible.
- I love the way that diners can customise their Pho to suit their tastes. Is this part of the Vietnamese tradition or something you’ve added to the experience? It’s definitely part of the country’s tradition – different sauces and massive plates of herbs are served with every bowl in Vietnam. As you eat your way through the bowl of steaming pho, you keep adding new ingredients to keep it alive. Careful though, if you add the chillies, they’re HOT.
Pho is now open in the Queen St. Dining Quarter – booking is essential! Keep your peepers peeled for our official review soon.