I’d heard some great things about the food at Pho following their launch night, so I was really excited to go along and see for myself. Pho is a Vietnamese restaurant, the first of its kind in this neck of the woods. If you haven’t had Vietnamese food before, the owners describe it as “similar to Chinese or Thai but with complex flavours, more contrast of colour and texture and with lots of fresh herbs it’s healthier”.
So let’s get stuck in and ‘Go Pho’!
Pho is located in the Queen Street Dining Quarter where Polpo used to be. There is plenty of seating outside and in. My 20 year old son accompanied me on this visit and we ate inside to get the complete Pho experience.
With drinks in hand and a plate of crackers with a sweet chilli sauce to nibble, we perused the menu which looked very exciting and inviting. Try pronouncing the names of the dishes – that will put a big smile on your face for starters! Fortunately underneath was a detailed description of the dish which will help with your choice.
I went for the Cha Gio, pork crispy spring rolls (veggie option available) with a peanut sauce. I had a tip-off about the excellent peanut sauce. My son chose the pork and lemongrass meatballs and a nuoc cham dipping sauce. Both dishes arrived served on a plate of lettuce and herbs. The waiter told us how to eat our starters; you tear off a piece of lettuce, place the spring roll or meatball in the middle with a mint leaf and wrap the lettuce leaf around it, then dip into the sauce.
Now that sounded like fun and it was! The mint leaf certainly added to the flavour of the very lightly spiced, delicate crispy spring roll. It just so happened we were sitting near to some other diners who were using the chopsticks to eat their starters so we thought we would do the same. They tasted even better this way. We shared the dips, both went well with each dish. The peanut sauce was particularly good.
Pho, the Vietnamese national dish, is a very special bowl of soup with noodles in. It is a broth made by simmering bones very slowly for a good 12 hours which allows the Pho to develop all the flavours, goodness and aromas. These steaming bowls of soup are served with a plate of fresh herbs to make the dish your own, as well as the extra flavourings on the table. These were Sriracha (chilli sauce), homemade garlic vinegar, homemade chilli and garlic paste and a fish sauce. A bit like a DIY soup!
I chose the House Special ‘Spicy Green’ chicken Pho and Ashley went for Bun Rieu, a classic dish from the Hanoi region of Vietnam, which was a rich tomato and crab broth with vermicelli noodles. We dived in with our chopsticks to fish out the noodles and taste the delicious broth, meat and herbs before deciding if we wished to add any other sauces and accompanying herbs. This was a big bowl of soup and once you had wrestled with the noodles and delicate herbs using your chopsticks, you could slurp the rest with a wooden spoon. There must have been some splashing going on, as the waitress asked if we would like a bib.
Whether or not she thought we were particularly messy eaters, we couldn’t see anyone else wearing one. But we agreed that actually getting bibbed was a very good idea. The fun continued as we attempted to finish our tasty bowls of broth. (We did see other diners bibbed up on our way out later). As well as the Pho dishes, you could order plates of noodles, rice or salads.
Feeling a little full for dessert, my eyes lit up when I spied banana fritters on the menu. Both desserts served with coconut ice cream, my warm fritters and Ashley’s pandan waffle were in fact a refreshing end to our meal.
This was a new and fun dining experience for us and we could see all the other diners enjoying themselves too. If you don’t have a big appetite, then maybe just have a bowl of Pho. Heading into autumn I can see that I will be making a detour to Pho for a tasty bowl of heart-warming broth and asking for a bib before I dive in!
This was a hosted review: the opinions expressed were not influenced by the restaurant.
Where is it?
Pho, 18 Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3HP
Check for opening hours: https://www.phocafe.co.uk/locations/exeter/
To book a table call 01392 706778 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Exeter is Pho’s 27th restaurant. You can find others in Balham, Battersea, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Chiswick, Clerkenwell, Covent Garden, Ealing, Guildford, Islington, Kingston, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Oxford Circus, Reading, Soho, Spitafields, St Pauls, Stratford, Westfield, Wimbledon