★★★★ | Pho and BunPR Supplied
We know what a bun is but what exactly is Pho? Find out at the West End Vietnamese restaurant called Pho and Bun.
Its menu is a feast, and a mystery, to the eye. Dishes with names you’ve never heard of (MIẾN TRỘN TÔM THỊT and GIÁ XÀO NẤM) – coupled with ingredients and tastes that you’ve never had (lemongrass tofu and dill mayonnaise) make this for a unique and excellent meal.
‘Bao’ is the new ‘it’ food in London, and Pho and Bun has a full menu of Bao. How to describe it? It’s a very light (and white), and very fluffy but not too heavy or filling bun. And Pho and Bun is using bao as the bread for their steamed bao burgers. You can have honey belly pork with fried shallot, confit belly pork with soy sauce, but I opted for the 28 days dry aged beef. It was, as I told my dining companion, the best burger I’ve ever had in London. The meat was delicious and tasteful, small yet satisfying, and the red onion relish, house pickle and smoky mayonnaise inside gave it a very unique and sumptuous taste (excellent value at £7.50). Our waiter recommended the sweet potato chips with chilli mayonnaise to go with the burger, and they were so so good. My dining companion had the Pho noodle (Pho is soup) with red wine braised beef. It was hearty, with lots of vegetables, vermicelli and the beef, which was nicely soft and moist, and is a dish I’ll order next time I go back. Other pho choices include the corn-fed chicken, seafood or crispy tofu, a spicy imperial version, as well as a stir fry version (beef rump steak and tofu and mushroom), and all under a bargain price of £9.50. My dining companion ordered a fried dough stick with his dinner – it was nicely textured and very soft.
Starters are highly recommend. The BÁNH TÔM HÀ NỘI -Hanio Prawn Pancake with sweet potatoes and lettuce wrap – was brilliant! Sweet potatoes are the base for the prawns, so it’s served pancake-style and chopped up into chunks. It’s crispy, crunchy and oh so good! And it’s served with lettuce so you’re supposed to wrap the chunks into the lettuce and dunk into a fish sauce, but I preferred to eat it on its own – absolutely divine! And at £6.50 it’s a must. Trust me! If you prefer a taste of everything then go for the P and D Special Platter Summer Roll Prawn that includes delicious spring rolls, nicely textured, lite and not too chewy chilli squid, served with onions and peppers, and prawns on top of shredded mango with cole slaw, nuts and basil and lettuce (so refreshing), which was amazing, and summer rolls with tofu and tiger prawns, wrapped in lettuce, served plain but peanut sauce is given on the side which highly complements the dish. All this comes a price of £13.50 but they will let you mix it up if there is something you don’t want or something else on the menu you want to add to it.
Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert. Pho and Bun’s dessert menu is small, which makes it easier to decide what to have. We ordered two to share – the Pandan and Coconut Panna Cotta with Peanut and Pineapple Salsa and the Flan caramel with Vietnamese Ice Coffee syrup. The Flan was hands down the winner; it was rich and tasteful and the coffee flavour gave it a nice kick. The Panna Cotta was a bit tasteless, I was expecting to be a bit more wowed by it but I was not. I’ll order the flan again next time. Also in mind for next time is the grilled banana with coconut sorbet and roasted peanut or a trio bean dessert with pandan jelly – which sounds highly unusual. All deserts are under £5.00.
Pho and Bun offers a nice selection of coffees and teas; the carrot juice was very fresh and elegantly served in a tin cup. The Homemade lemonade was refreshing and good. Wines are also on offer, as is the recommended Saigon beer.
I’ve briefly touched on the menu above, it’s such a diverse food menu and there is truly something for everyone at Pho and Bun. As mentioned above, the burgers are yummy and different, the Pho and Noodle soups are hearty and good value for money, rice and vermicelli dishes (BBQ pork with salad and fresh herbs or the glass noodle with minced pork, tiger prawn, fresh herbs and confit aggs, or perhaps plain beef rump steak or tiger prawns with bean sprouts and stir-fried lemongrass) – all at a good value price of £9.50. There are also salad and vegetarian dishes, a great value set lunch menu (two courses) for a mere £9.50, or a highly recommended 6-course tasting menu that gives you a bit of everything (including a sampling of four starters) at a low price of £22.95.
Pho and Bun is conveniently nestled in London’s West End, right on Shaftsbury Avenue, in the heart of the theatre district and Chinatown. It’s in the location where Young Cheng, a very popular and cheap Chinese restaurant, used to be. The venue has been redone to resemble a Vietnamese cafe, nicely wood panelled and cosy. But now that winter is here, avoid sitting near the front door, it’s very very drafty. Downstairs may be a better option for you as it’s warmer but it still retains a typical restaurant basement feel. Quang our waiter was wonderful, very charming and friendly, and recommended dishes that we didn’t realise we wanted but enjoyed eating! While Pho and Bun is not quite 5 star overall, it’s food is five star. I will be going back very very soon.
Reviewed by: Tim Baros
Telephone: 020 7287 3528
Address: 76 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6ND, UK
Monday – Thursday 12:00 – 23:00
Friday – Saturday 12:00 – 23:30
Sunday 12:00 – 22:00
PRICE: ££ (explained)
STAR: ★★★★ (explained)
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.