Wednesday, March 08, 2006


This small, unpreposessing Vietnamese noodle cafe always seems busy, so we thought it worth a try. The menu focuses on traditional 'pho' - noodles in broth (around £6-7); stir-fried noodles served cold (this didn't sound too apetising on a winter's day) and Vietnamese pancakes. The latter were described as starter/side orders, but the £5 dish actually makes a filling main course. I thought it was the highlight of the meal - crispy deep fried pancake, full to birsting with tender bean sprouts, large prawns and pieces of chicken, served with chilli sauce. My traditional pho came with slices of fillet steak, which was well-stewed and hence in my opinion totally ruined, if probably very authentically Vietnamese. The pieces were quite well-hidden in a gigantic bowl of noodles in flavoursome beef broth and served with a side dish of herbs, chilli slices and lime wedges for you to add your own flavouring. It was nice enough, but the portion was far too big and I only managed about half. A prawn pho in chicken broth was deemed nicer by its orderer, though I though the broth tasted like chicken stock cubes. The daily special of curry was nicely spicy. They have a range of Vietnamese beers and some more unusual soft drinks too (though we were not convinced by the local take on home-made lemonade). There is also coffee which has been specially regurgitated by Vietnamese weasels - a bargain for a mere £5. We were not feeling very adventurous, so you'll have to go yourselves if you are curious.
The service was very friendly and the decor is simple, clean cafe style. It was an interesting meal, all told, but not really special enough to warrant a come-back. Especially given the limited selection of types of dishes on offer.

Pho, 86 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH; Tel: 020 7253 7624; Tube: Farringdon

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