Casual Dining in Exeter: Perfect 'Pho' the cold weather!


The pun in the title relies on you knowing that Pho is actually pronounced ‘fuh’, but the English tend to pronounce it like ‘foe’, a fact I didn’t realise until I had actually been to Pho Restaurant in Queen St, Exeter. I’ve been a little quiet on the blog recently due to the busy-ness of life, but I am still orchestrating things in the background quietly. Like a tiny conductor.

Courtesy of Kathleen Hacking

Just before Christmas I had the pleasure of experiencing one of our favourite Exeter restaurants as a review meal. It was a family birthday, and the generous chaps at Pho put us up for the evening whilst we slurped and munched our way through a whole variety of dishes.

Never been to Pho? What is it? How do you use chopsticks? I hear your questions and I will answer them in due course. I don’t actually hear your questions as I am writing this, I can only imagine some of the questions that might be running through your head, including ‘stop waffling’…

Chris eating a hot chicken wing with caution

I like to bring unsuspecting Pho virgins along to sample the big bowls of glory, and so far most our friends have been along at some point for some hearty Pho and other Vietnamese offerings.

Pho has been in Exeter for just over a year. They opened in August 2018 and have firmly established themselves as an Exeter dining favourite. Their menu is vegetarian/vegan friendly with a respectable percentage of dishes being easily converted to or solely plant-based.

What is Pho? It’s the national dish of Vietnam. A noodle broth, either made from chicken, beef or vegetables filled to the brim with fresh ingredients. If you want to add some extra fresh garnishes, they are yours to vigorously throw in too.

Fresh Summer Rolls!

We’ve been before, in fact we even interviewed their founders when they first opened. The concept was simple, to bring the complex and rich flavours of the Pho stalls of Vietnam to a casual dining setting for the UK – and given the popularity of Pho across the UK, they really hit the spot.

Menu for tonight:

Chris –

Drink – Glass of Malbec,
Starter- CÁNH GÀ (Seasoned, crispy chicken wings served with sriracha)
Main – BÚN GÀ HUẾ Hot & Spicy Chicken Pho

Kathleen.
Drink – Pride Punch (Sweet, fruity rum punch, with £1 from each sale going to local Pride organisations)
Starter – GỎI CUỐN (Fresh rice paper summer rolls with herbs, vermicelli & pickle.)
Main – Brisket and Mushroom House Special.

Mum.
Drink – Fresh Lemongrass Tea.
Stater – NEM HẢI SẢN (Large crispy spring roll of tiger prawn, crab & pork with nước chấm dipping sauce)
Mains – PHỞ TÔM (Tiger prawns in chicken or veggie broth)

Jim.
Drink – Beavertown Gamma Ray.
Starter – NEM HẢI SẢN (Large crispy spring roll of tiger prawn, crab & pork with nước chấm dipping sauce)
Mains – CƠM TẤM ĐẶC BIỆT PORK (Rice bowls topped with loads of veg & herbs, served with chargrilled pork)

Tori.
Drink – Homemade Lemonade.
Starter – NEM NƯỚNG (Homemade pork & lemongrass meatballs with lettuce & herbs to wrap & dip)
Mains – CÀ-RI CHICKEN (Rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with veggies & mushrooms, served with broken rice & chicken)

Pride Punch

There are things that Pho do really well. The service is always on their game, friendly and accomodating without falter. Their drinks menu has some of the regular staples but also some exotic Vietnamese beers, ironically I seem to plump for their French Malbec each time which matches really well with the BÚN GÀ HUẾ (Hot & Spicy Chicken). Kath went for their Pride Punch which donates £1 to a local LGBT pride organisation.

I had to go for something different for the starter. Each time I’ve been previously it’s been their sumptuous NEM NƯỚNG (Homemade pork & lemongrass meatballs with lettuce & herbs to wrap & dip) which Tori had. Went for Chicken Wings. Was not disappointed.

With NEM NƯỚNG it’s all about the wrapping and the dipping…
Crispy Chicken Wings with Sriracha sauce for dipping…

Cripsy skins that cracked like an egg shell, these little portions of meaty-poppiness were a delight. The spicy sides added a chorus of heat to the proceedings, but it was all in a way that you could control the burn.

Mum and Jim went for NEM HẢI SẢN (Large crispy spring roll of tiger prawn, crab & pork with nước chấm dipping sauce) which created some satisfied noises from their end of the table.

A special note has to be made about their satay sauce, which is made to a secret recipe. I know this as I tried asking about it, but it is a bit of a secret. It is, most probably, one of the nicest peanut sauces I’ve tried, and one that is unashamedly finger-in-the-bowl-licked-clean-able.

BÚN GÀ HUẾ Hot & Spicy Chicken Pho

The BÚN GÀ HUẾ is provided with a bib. There is good reason as it stains mercilessly if you spill it down yourself – and given this is my party trick, I wasn’t going to take any risks.

There is nothing better than a comforting warm bowl of broth during the cold weather, and given we’re likely to be experiencing some snow in the next few weeks, it only makes sense to get back down to Pho, or give it a whirl if you’ve never been before.

CÀ-RI CHICKEN (Rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with veggies & mushrooms, served with broken rice & chicken)

Ca-ri Chicken is particularly good, and a really good example of other dishes that Pho do well. It’s not spicy either, one of those perfect starter curries for diners who have never really had a good ‘non-traditional’ curry before.

Courtesy of Kathleen Hacking

I will happily admit that I do like Pho – they care a lot about what they put out, and as larger chains go, they are very accommodating to those with dietary requirements. A quarter of their menu is vegan, with many other parts of it convertible to vegan requirements.

When the cold weather sets in, my first thought is Pho and normally a trip to Queen St is needed!

40 High St, Exeter EX4 3HP

Website: phocafe.co.uk 01392 706778

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The meal provided in this review was gratis. Views expressed are independent of the business and is not seen or approved before publication.

One thought on “Casual Dining in Exeter: Perfect 'Pho' the cold weather!

  1. These guys really find a seemingly straightforward setup and make it properly remarkable, big fan. I probably don’t go enough! Always so much flavour, even if I have genuine issues with using chopsticks (my unidentifiable problem!) and the takeaway, and getting it home, is full of warmth and hope as sitting in as well.

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