Bang on Old Compton Street lies The House of Ho (and according to a rather comical page on their menu; “We might be called Ho’s but we are, at least, classy ones”.
Hos aside, the restaurant was busy for a Tuesday 7pm. Our initial welcome was lukewarm from a waiter clearly feeling the burn of “suicide Tuesday”, but this was swiftly rectified by the lovely waitress that hadn’t lost the will to live, could actually speak, and presented us with the wine list & suggesting some edamame beans and Asian crackers for the table.
Bobby Chinn owns the restaurant, as well as another in Hanoi, and has a successful TV series “World Cafe Asia”. Bobby is clearly a man who knows his food but also how to have fun with it. Both food and drinks menu include a page bound to make you giggle; “Duct tape is available for hyperactive children”, and Bobby’s “10 Stages of Drunkness”, my favourite being number 4: Clairvoyant.
The décor is far more serious, showcasing some dramatic red drapery, low lights, grey tones, and brushed steel. An odd pairing of artwork, being sat adjacent to a painting of people with no heads, and tables decorated with a couple of token touches of copper via candle votives.
Their drinks menu is extensive, some fantastic and relevant to the Vietnamese theme including ingredients; lemongrass, coconut water, cucumber, lychee, Vietnamese coffee etc. Loving some of the great rose wines out there now, I opted for the Terra Vecchia Rose 2013 (£29), a really light, clean tasting and fresh wine- a great paring for the robust and fresh flavours we were about to enjoy.
Ho serves food in the same manner as tapas, there are no strict starters/mains etc. They recommend 3-4 dishes per person, and left it in our waitress’ hands to decide what we had, to great success across 7 dishes that was the perfect amount of food for two.
Bobby’s Warm Duck salad (£10.50) a touch disappointing after being advised of its spiciness and the heat being a little underwhelming. It was however lovely, light and crispy, although coriander’s presence was overpowering. The Grass Fed Angus Fillet Rolls (£6.50) were a triumph. My friend had visited Vietnam and said the flavours of this dish enchanted fond memories of his time there. Light rolls filled with fresh mint that complimented the rich wok tossed beef perfectly, with a little bit of sweetness in there too from some crispy onions- one to try.
Seafood Ceviche (£12.50) – prawns, sea bass, and scallops combined with mangosteen (a fruit with amazing health benefits, a joy to see on the menu), nestled amongst peppers and avocado in a light coconut fresh lime jus – fresh to death! A lovely dish to have alongside the crispy 7 Spice Vietnamese Squid (£8.50), where its real winner was the dip accompaniment; perfect proportions of sweet & fiery with interesting flavour layers.
The next dishes were the ones that made the meal. Shaking Beef (£12), 30-day grass-fed Angus beef. Ridiculously tender bite-size morsels. Plain in its seasoning with a strong peppery flavour. The meat speaks for itself here. Griddled Duck (13.50), in my notes I actually cussed against this dish it was that good. Only a little pink, and the notoriously fatty element of the duck almost going undetected it was cooked so well. Another bringer of ‘nam memories for my friend. Heavy smoky flavours, and comes served with a cabbage leaf stuffed with black rice. The stuffed cabbage was very plain and verging on under seasoned, but as an avid fan of both black rice and cabbage, I loved its purpose on the plate.
The richness of both duck and beef dishes would require something light like a salad next to it. Our waitress had decided that we would receive Morning Glory (£6) – cooked spinach and toasted shallot oil with peanuts, a great simple side- but would have preferred a raw element at this point of the meal.
With always room for pud, we chose the lemon scented crème brulee (£5.50) – lovely strong citrus, and overall a good brulee, but it came fridge cold which I’m not a fan of, believing it should always be served a little warm, even if it’s room temp to take away the image of bundles of brulees sat in a fridge.
Also chosen was the trio of homemade gelatos- keen to see what varieties would be served due to the restaurant’s constant compliance to a Vietnamese theme. Apparently, a lemongrass was served but I could not identify between this one and another that only appeared through apparent pods, to be vanilla. A chocolate was also served and despite the gelato in their consistency being superior and luxuriously creamy- the flavours lacked any identity. I would have loved to have seen some flavours like on their cocktail menu. A Vietnamese Coffee Gelato sounds lovely!
In my view, there were a few errors with a couple of instances involving overpowering flavours, and where the flavour lacked altogether- the dishes otherwise had clever composition. The House of Ho offers stylish dishes packed with exciting and fresh flavours that would definitely make me come back to explore the rest of the menu.
The restaurant will also now be open till 1 AM on Fridays & Saturdays for “Late Ho”, with a resident DJ and Vietnamese bar snacks.
Reviewed by @lohanjordan
ADDRESS: 55—59 Old Compton Street, Soho, London, W1D 6HW
PHONE: 020 7287 0770
PRICE: ££££ (explained)
STAR RATING: ★★★ (explained)