Pho

3 Great Titchfield Street,Fitzrovia,London.W1W 8AX

This tiny café on Great Titchfield Street looked promising enough, packed full of media types and office workers when I went for a rainy weekday lunch. Aptly enough it specialises in Pho; the traditional street food dish of choice in Vietnam. A broth of beef broth, noodles and thin cuts of brisket, tripe with various garnishes Pho is heralded as a hangover cure, an aphrodisiac and is eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

On the website there are some rather deceptive sound bites from the national press describing this national dish as if these glowing accolades are attributed to the restaurant. (This is a bit like opening a chippy in Laos called “fish and chips” and then creating a website full of international acclaim for the term “fish and chips” and then basking in that glow). Anyway, encouraged by the restaurant’s boast of offering a stock which takes up to 12 hours to prepare I ordered a bowl of the “vegetarian pho” with tofu and mushrooms. So many restaurants make the false assumption that just because you are ordering vegetables you must be a vegetarian and then proceed to make up for it by concocting some god-awful over-seasoned meatless stock, so I was delighted at the novelty of being able to order chicken stock with vegetarian ingredients .

My meal came with a separate plate of coriander, mint, beansprouts, lime and chilli for me to season according to my own taste which seemed like a nice touch, until I actually tasted it and then understood it to be a very necessary touch. Utterly devoid of flavour it desperately needed msg, or at the very least just salt. It certainly didn’t taste like it had been prepared for even one let alone 12 hours in advance. The mushrooms were insipid grey buttons drowning in a ghastly sea of blandness. I could vaguely taste the fried beancurd and even after adding half a bottle of chilli sauce, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and every condiment on the aforementioned plate, the dish was still miraculously tasteless.

Apparently there’s another branch in Clerkenwell. My advice would be to avoid it like the plague and head to the much less trendy but far more authentic Pho (no relation) at 126 King’s Cross Road which has Pho for beginners, regulars and adventurers. The menu is far more extensive, the dishes cheaper and the service excellent.

The service at this place was as abysmal as the food.I know its fairly new and this was lunchtime, but I was ignored for a lifetime before being shown a menu and once I paid I was ignored once again. When the waitress asked me how the food was I told her that it was tasteless. Her reaction was to nod in bored agreement and to promise unconvincingly to let the chef know before presenting me with the bill for £6.45. Pho? Perhaps that ought to be “What the pho”.

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