Pho, Clare Street: Review

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Pho Bristol - Exterior

 

Located on the corner of Clare Street and St Stephen’s Street in the city centre, Pho opened in the former home of The Birdcage on April 28th. Half of Bristol probably tried their pho on their opening day – they were giving it away for free from 12 pm, and the queues were insane. I decided to wait until week 2 to sample their Vietnamese offering…

Pho (pronounced fuh) is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup, served with a plate of herbs and other garnishes to add as you see fit. While it’s the pho that’s clearly the focus (there are over 15 different varieties on the menu), there’s also a range of street food dishes from which to choose.

The venue’s clearly had a bit of a facelift since the team took over, from the large neon sign in the front window to the huge woven basket-style lampshades that are suspended from the ceiling throughout the restaurant.

 

Pho Bristol - Interior 2

 

The back wall is exposed brickwork with a large pho image, and the right-hand wall as you walk in is home to a graffiti-style piece depicting the scene outside a Pho restaurant. There’s seating for around 70 people, at both regular tables and a counter at the front of the restaurant.

The former clothes shop area is now an open plan kitchen, while the right-hand side of the main restaurant is taken up by the bar – the cocktail menu on a large blackboard on the left, a massive bowl of mixed fruit on the right.

I chose to sit at the counter at the front of the restaurant, looking out onto Clare Street – accompanied by the gentle strains of George Michael, Talking Heads and Sting, among others…

 

Pho Bristol - Interior 1

 

The guy who served me was friendly and polite, asking if I’d eaten at Pho before and offering to explain the menu. While I perused the choices, I ordered a fresh mint tea (£1.80) – a huge, steaming mug of water and fresh mint leaves that was incredibly refreshing on a warm day.

 

Pho Bristol - Fresh Mint Tea

 

The food menu offers a surprising amount of choice: starters, salads, wok-fried noodle dishes, curries, side dishes and of course the pho itself. After asking for recommendations, I was told that the chicken or the beef were the standout options – or the spicy pho dishes (apparently they’re VERY spicy – I wasn’t brave enough to try them…!) In the end, I opted for the Phở gà (chicken breast in chicken stock – £8.25) – and under 10 minutes passed before my order arrived.

The pho arrived piping hot and lovely and fragrant – according to Pho, they make all their broths in-house by simmering bones for 12 hours, ensuring that they’re packed full of flavour. As is standard, I was presented with the pho itself (chicken broth, chicken, noodles, sliced onion and spring onion), as well as a side plate featuring fresh herbs, bean sprouts, sliced red chilli and lime: the idea is that you taste the broth and add these extras to suit your taste.

There are also four different liquid seasonings on every table: a bottle of Sriracha, fish sauce, a homemade garlic vinegar and a homemade chilli and garlic paste, all of which can also be added to your dish. I was told that the garlic vinegar (which also included plenty of red chillies) was designed to be served with the chicken pho, so it would have been rude not to try it. I’m pleased to report that it was lovely and pungent and certainly added a lovely kick to the dish.

The shredded chicken itself was beautifully cooked and full of flavour, while the broth was beautiful – even more so with the addition of the herbs and garlic vinegar. The noodles, though, were a little disappointing – they were cooked well but clumped together, making them a little unappealing and harder to eat.

My one other small complaint would be that a more generous wedge of lime wouldn’t have gone amiss – it was a little measly for such a large bowl of pho. Apart from those gripes, though, a big thumbs up – a lovely healthy lunch full of fresh and vibrant flavours.

 

 

Pho Bristol - Chicken Pho

 

 

At £10.05 for my Pho and mint tea, it wasn’t a badly priced lunch – and the speed of service means that it’s perfect for those working in the city centre who are looking for a hot bite to eat on their lunch breaks. Would I go back? Yes, I would. There’s still plenty left for me to try on the menu, and it’s great to have a dedicated Vietnamese option in the city centre at last!

 

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