Sick and tired of eating the same cuisine every time you decide to eat out? Why not try one of York's newest restaurants, Pho. Specialising in Vietnamese street-style food, Pho is a “small group of restaurants... serving great value, healthy Vietnamese food that’s cooked fresh...daily.” Pho was first imagined when founders, Stephen and Juliette Wall, visited Vietnam in 2005 and fell in love with the unique flavours of Vietnamese culture; they returned to England and opened their restaurant inspired by their new-found love. 17 years later, we now have our very own Pho in York situated on Low Petergate and early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Therefore, when their marketing team reached out to my co-editor (Henry Howard) and myself about coming in for a complimentary meal and a subsequent review, we couldn’t wait to give the food a try.
Firstly, on entering the restaurant there was a calm, clean ambience created through the simple, yet effective Vietnamese-inspired décor. The song playlist in particular was perfect and complimented the style of the restaurant. As someone new to Vietnamese food I was quite apprehensive. But from the moment we stepped into the restaurant, the staff were attentive and excellent at guiding us through the different courses of our meal. This was greatly appreciated, as the volume of choices was a little overwhelming. Our server, Megan, was brilliant at talking us through each option on the menu, recommending some of their most popular dishes and some personal favourites too. To start I ordered a ‘Lemon & Basil Martini’ – Hà Nội vodka, homemade lemonade & Thai basil (£7.95); the blast of the fresh lemonade and vodka made for a spicy, tangy concoction, which was perfectly balanced with the fragrant, sweeter basil. Next, I tried the ‘Pride Punch’ – Havana Club rum, passionfruit liqueur, fresh apple juice and muddled lime (£7.95). Juxtaposing the flavours of the martini, the Pride Punch really did pack a punch; the sweetly vivacious flavour of the passionfruit along with the tart apple has made this drink one of Pho’s most popular. The best thing about this cocktail is that 50p is donated to Stonewall (an LGBTQ+ rights charity in the UK) with every purchase.
Regarding our food choices, on the whole, everything we tried was delicious. I started my meal with the vegan ‘Morning Glory | Rau muống xào’; stir-fried morning glory (water spinach) in garlic, with or without fresh red chillies (£5.95), which was seasoned perfectly, enhancing the freshness of the vegetables. Henry ordered the ‘Baby squid | Mực chiên giòn’; tender fried baby squid with a salt, pepper & lime dip (£7.95); the batter was light and crispy and just like everything we tried, super fresh.
The 'Morning Glory' starter and the 'Baby Squid'. Image: Emma McGreevy
Next up, we both opted for Phở options; I tried the ‘Phở house | Phở đặc biệt’-king prawns, chicken & flash-fried steak with garlic in beef broth (£12.95) and Henry had the ‘Crab noodle soup | Bún riêu’ - a Hanoi classic; vermicelli noodles in a tomato & crab broth with wafer thin steak and tofu, topped with fried shallots (£12.50). Similarly, to the ‘Pride Punch’, a highlight of the menu is that a 25p donation is given to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in Vietnam every time the ‘Pho House’ is ordered. Phở is a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, noodles, meat or alternative and lots of toppings. It is a highly aromatic dish that is filled with delicate spice-infused flavours. Our experience of Phở lived up to the dishes’ prestigious reviews. The ‘Phở house’ was light and tangy whereas the ‘Crab noodle soup’ was a much richer dish; each equally as fragrant, flavoursome, and filled with toppings. On the side was a dish of extra herbs and toppings, allowing us to tailor the meal to our taste; Megan had explained that this was an integral part of the experience and so each table supplied a selection of fish sauce, garlic chilli oil, sriracha and soy sauce to add if desired. With regards to value for money, each portion was significantly large and filling. By the end of the main course, I was comfortably satisfied and so turned down the dessert offer (unheard of, for me!). We finished our experience with a Cà phê sữa đá; an iced coffee with condensed milk (£3.60), which was very indulgent. The condensed milk counterbalanced the bitter, robust coffee creating a creamy iced treat once mixed.
Concerning allergens, Pho provides an extensive list of specific allergens in each dish online and has a wide variety of options for everyone. What is particularly impressive is that the menu is almost entirely Gluten-free as accredited by ‘Coeliac UK’. As well as this, Megan asked us immediately if we had any allergens or food preferences when we sat down which is always appreciated. Regarding vegetarian and vegan options, the online menu has a separate substantial section for these items creating a restaurant that is welcoming to all.
Overall, we had a thoroughly enjoyable experience visiting Pho and we were very well taken care of. Its value for money, vibrant, fresh food and impeccable service makes it a must-visit; I will definitely be back soon to try their crispy banana fritters!