Brick Lane is home to the curry house, Brixton is known for it’s Caribbean soul food, Chinatown is self explanatory, Hoxton has it’s own ‘Pho Mile’, where I recently tried out Cay Tre, but this usually fail safe formula has one significant outlier.
The best Vietnamese food I have ever had does not come from Pho Mile, it doesn’t even belong in the more upmarket and achingly hip spots of Soho, but in a far away suburb close to Surrey Quays/ Canada Water. It’s not even located anywhere commuter friendly, while it is only a short walk from a tube station, it’s confusingly tucked away in the far corner of a car park, near a Bingo parlour and from the exterior, it looks to be completely unoccupied!
The desolate exterior is misleading though, there’s a lot of people waiting to be seated, but I’ve never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a table as this is very much a ‘Get in, eat and get out’ sort of place and that warm spicy aroma in the air makes waiting seem almost a pleasure.
The interior is minimalist and when it’s busy, you’re packed in but it all just adds to the chatter and it all feels like quite fun and buzzy. The menu features all the permutations you could possibly want from your bowl of Pho; mouth watering broth in a beef or chicken flavour, spicy or non spicy, seafood, chicken, razor thin slices of beef and with flat rice noodles or vermicelli. When it’s cold out, I’m a creature of habit and my favourite order is the Pho Tom, spicy chicken broth with flat rice noodles and a bunch of fat prawns sprinkled liberally throughout.
Don’t start nibbling on the dish that comes out though, that’s for you to add to your bowl of soup as you see fit! I love adding the fresh beansprouts, they remain crunchy when just dunked in and adds in another texture to the noodles, which is about as comforting as a hug from your mother and grandmother all rolled into one.
If soup is not your thing, the Com Curry has received rave reviews from the husband, being similar to the Japanese Katsu Curry in style but on this particular visit, he opted for my summer order – the Lemongrass pork noodle salad.
I have often tried to replicate the Nuoc Cham sauce I’ve had at Cafe East, with limited success and this sauce is intended to be poured all over your salad and the ingredients all tossed together to make sure every last morsel is coated in garlicky spicy goodness. It’s a toss up over which is my favourite order and I tend to vary my order with the seasons, but never straying too far from my favourites!
Despite my rave so far, I’m not a big fan of the starters on offer here and truthfully, the portions are so large that having starters is really unnecessary. Their refusal to serve tap water is also rather annoying, I’m entirely unsure why it’s such a big deal with them but with liberal signage, it’s clear: They do not serve tap water!
My favourite drink here is the Coconut Water, I’m confident it comes from a can as I doubt any coconuts are so sweet, but with a hefty dose of sweet coconut flesh in an icy glass, it soothes the spicy flavours on my tongue and lends itself to a beautiful medley.
This is a review borne from many many (many) outings to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant, and I’m sad to say that we’ve moved away now and this is no longer just down the road, but I think the Pho is worth a special trip back!