Age: Nine years old. However, the first ever Pho was opened in Clerkenwell back in 2005 by husband and wife team Stephen and Juliette Wall after quitting their jobs to travel the world – and being inspired by the streetfood of Vietnam.
Where exactly is it? You’ll find it bang in the middle of Wardour Street in a listed building once home to a famous furniture designer of the 1790s. Pre-Pho it was called Italian Graffiti. No, we don’t remember that either.
OK. So what goes on there? Um…you’ve guessed it. But also all manner of other Vietnamese options including spicy salads, wok-fried noodles, and fragrant curries.
What should I eat? Primarily the new plant-based and/or calorie-counted menu. We gobbled down the vegan rolls (above, main pic) tied together with a carrot ribbon (£4.95) – eyes watering from a surprising whack of chilli – before crunching into hand rolls with enoki mushrooms, fine vermicelli noodles and minty perilla (£4.95). Both can be dunked into the fiery or peanut sauce for a deeper hit.
And mains? You could do worse than courgetti – if we’re sticking to all things life-giving. Using the twelve-hour veggie broths that are its staple, the courgette noodles are loaded with tofu, morning glory, green beans, pak choi, fresh lime and Thai basil (£10.95). A cauliflower rice bowl proved equally fine, a deep-filled pile of radishes, carrot, herbs, cucumber, and pak choi (we opted for added chargrilled chicken thigh here too, £10.25). Be warned: they’re big; and in keeping with the theme, calories are listed after each dish, the count really quite low (with high protein levels, of course). If you care about such things, that is.
The interior: Lovely, being one of Soho’s older buildings. There are two small dining rooms – bare-brick, red accents, Georgian windows – and a slim bar where you can await a table.
And what do I drink? We went for the new range of mocktails and teas: a refreshing spicy lemonade with ginger and fresh mint, followed by a good but slightly too sweet (for my palate) Nojito, the muddled lime and mint, crushed ice and soda convincing enough. And, as a digestif, the detox green tea opens like a flower when it’s ready to drink.
What’s the service like? Smiley and friendly, despite the staff having to fend off a stream of potential customers all night. The place was rammed.
Do say: ‘You can eat two courses here for under 500 cals.’
Don’t say: ‘Will I be hungry in an hour?’