Pho is the new fast food but in many ways it is the antithesis of fast food. It is true that like fast food pho is pretty cheap with your meal unlikely to cost more than £7. It is also true that the original Clerkenwell restaurant named after its signature dish has spread to three stores in London which could be described as a (small) chain. Each restaurant is kitted out in the same way with bright cheery plastic orange chairs and practical sturdy tables. Like a fast food chain there are no bookings and it is unlikely that you will have to wait more than five minutes for your meal. But then you get to the meal itself and there is nothing fast about eating a bowl of pho soup.
The ability to personalise your broth is a real plus at Pho and allows a feel of authenticity. However, this is clearly pho for Westernised palates and all the cuts of meat used are lean without any of the delicious fatty flavoursome bits that you find inside a bowl of pho in Vietnam. Of all the varieties on offer at Pho the standard Pho Chin containing beef brisket is the top pick. The meat could be more tender but it offers the crisp yet understated taste that is the hallmark of Vietnamese cuisine. The same can’t be said for the Pho Bo Vien which contains dull meatballs which lack flavour. Mushroom pho while steeply priced at the same cost as the meat versions contains a great variety of mushrooms and is so refreshingly light that you feel incredibly virtuous eating it. It seems that Pho may be the new fast but slow food.
Details: 86 St John Street, Clerkenwell EC1M 4EH (Ph 020 7253 7624)
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve
If you liked reading this and you love your pho you can get it with a bit more Vietnamese attitude and flavour at Viet Grill on Kingsland road in Shoreditch. That said, I think for cheap, good food in London Pho is head and shoulders above a place like Alan Yau’s Cha Cha Moon.