Restaurant Review: Pho in Spitalfields

After a long afternoon walking around central London in the cold with Jorge yesterday searching for the perfect Christmas jumpers, not much sounded better than thawing our hands in a warm restaurant and settling in to a big bowl of steaming pho. We had been invited to visit the newest branch of Vietnamese street food restaurant Pho which opened in July this year – on the seventh anniversary of the first branch on St. John Street. Healthy, warm and something different.

Pho Spitalfields @ Brushfield Street
Photo: Pho Spitalfields by

We were welcomed by friendly staff who showed us to a seat by the window. The atmosphere was set by giant woven ball-shaped lights that cast concentric circle shadows on the ceiling. They reminded me of relaxing, natural disco balls, if you can imagine that!


The music was uplifting and could be controlled by a secret DJ. Anyone could download their app and tend to the “jukebox” from their phone. The small space was packed full of people enjoying a taste of Southeast Asia.


Recommended by a waitress, we tried the Banh Xeo Tom Ga, a traditional Vietnamese crepe filled with prawns, chicken and beansprouts. This was our favourite, even better than the main dishes. The crepe is not what you think of when you think of, say, a French crepe. It looks more like a fried version of an open taco, filled up with beansprouts, chicken and prawn. The waitress explained how to eat it which was to break off parts of the crepe  and wrap it in pieces of lettuce, stick in some herbs before dipping the whole parcel of yumminess into the sauce on the side. It was definitely messy, but we’d both go back just for that. Trust me, the iPhone pictures don’t do it justice.


For the main dish, Jorge ordered the Pho Xao Thit Ga, wok fried flat rice noodles with lemongrass chili and onion, served with peanuts and the nuoc cham sauce. It had a bit of a kick to it which he enjoyed.


I was originally going to choose that big steaming bowl of pho that I had been thinking about earlier, but I can’t resist a good noodle dish so, at the recommendation of the waitress again, I went for the Bun Cha Gio Tom with juicy tiger prawns. The vermicelli rice noodles (served cold like they are in Vietnam) with stir fried topping, fresh herbs, peanuts and a veggie spring roll came in a gigantic bowl. I poured over my nuoc cham sauce and dug in. Though all off the food was delicious, my main dish didn’t necessarily have a particular wow factor  and I did leave wondering what I missed by not ordering their famous pho. But that will make deciding what to order next time easier.


To drink, we had refreshing glasses of freshly squeezed apple, mint & lime juice and topped off the evening with some creamy honey and ginger ice cream.


Quick fact: Pho is correctly pronounced “fuh” although most people outside of Vietnam tend to pronounce it “foe”.

Check the Pho website for all of of their seven locations:


Spitalfields Life

If I have a quiet Sunday stretching ahead of me, one of my favourite ways to while away the hours is a visit to Spitalfields (which, in my own humble opinion, is – yes, I will commit to it – the most fascinating area of London) – for the rich and diverse history (from huguenot silk weavers to Jack the Ripper), the beautiful old Georgian architecture juxtaposed against the gentrified skyline of modern office blocks, the bustling Sunday markets that attract a mix of hipsters, hippies, photographers, artists, rastas, musicians and local Bangladeshis, the changing canvas walls born out of the colourful culture of street art, scents of food from around the world and just the general madness of it all.

And if I have a quiet rainy Sunday stretching ahead of me as the coming one may be, one of my favourite ways to while away the hours is a visit to Spitalfields Life, a blog that I think is so fantastically researched and lovingly tended to by The Gentle Author who always manages to get the insider’s take, it most certainly deserved to be turned into a book. And it has been. I saw a copy in a shop window on my walk through Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday. I was carrying a big jasmine plant and some hyacinths so I decided to order it online when I got home. And my copy arrived yesterday at the office which I am very excited to stick my nose in for hours on end. I can see it now, curled up with a lovely hot cup of tea, turning open the first page. Ah, bliss.

Have any of you read it yet? Plans to?

Londoners: Camera Man

Early morning in Spitalfields Market and camera man has fallen asleep. I walked by once and he was nodding off. When I walked by a second time, he was conked out. Couldn’t resist snapping a photo. Must have been a late night. 

Tried... or Tired?

Notice his shirt says “tried”… should probably be “tired” instead!!

Little London Escapes: Spitalfields City Farm

Walk down Buxton Street from Brick Lane and you’ll find yourself face to face with grazing sheep and horses and a lovely garden. Spitalfields City Farm is the closest to the Square Mile and a nice little escape from the bustle of the markets. Here’s some pics.

Welcome: Spitalfields City Farm

Graffiti Rock


Coriander Club

Spitalfields City Farm Garden

Yellow Building and Birds

Hand Washing


Listen to a Londoner: Marsha Moore

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email Always looking for new volunteers.

Marsha Moore, 36

A native Canadian, Marsha has lived and worked in London for the past six years. Her first book, 24 Hours London (Prospera Publishing 2009), was inspired by her love for her adopted city.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how did you end up in London and how long have you been in this fabulous city?
I’m from Canada originally. I came to London six years ago as a teacher, met my husband here, got married and stayed! I miss Canada but London is home to me now. As a full-time writer, it’s got a fantastic literary scene and I’ve been able to meet and network with lots of other writers.

LLO: As the author of 24 Hours London and 24 Hours Paris, which city do you prefer and why?
Paris is such a beautiful city that you can’t help but be stunned by how perfectly groomed it appears to be. It reminds me of entering my mother’s room as a child – you’re fascinated by everything but afraid to touch it unless you somehow mess it up. London is greyer, less appealing visually, and less ordered, but you feel somehow like you can dig in and get your hands dirty. So I have to say – as much as I like Paris – I love living in London.

LLO: I’ve got 24 hours to kill in London and want to get off the tourist track. What do you suggest?
While it’s not exactly secret, wandering along the Thames on the  Southbank – preferably in good weather – is one of my favourite things to do. You’ve got the British Film Institute, The National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall and the Tate Modern all within a kilometer, as well as brilliant views over the river! London’s markets also can’t be missed – try Spitalfields and Columbia Road on a Sunday for flowers to frou frou (and don’t miss out Brick Lane along the way), and Borough Market for food. In the north of the city is Hampstead Heath, where you can wander through the trees, fly a kite and take a dip in a pond…and forget you’re in a mega-metropolis!

LLO: What’s your favourite late-night London venue/activity?
The energy in Soho is so amazing I could soak it up all night! The buzz of the streets, the swarms of crowds outside West End theatres… for me, it’s what London is all about. There are loads of great spots in Soho but I like LAB for drinks, Pulcinella for pizza and Balans for late-night (or early morning!) dinners. The Curzon also has midnight cinema once a month, where you can chill out and watch films until morning.

LLO: Where in London do you go for new inspiration if writer’s block strikes?
London has so many great green spaces and I always find a wander through them clears my head! I love the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, in particular – there’s nothing better than grabbing a coffee at the Lido and watching the boats drift up and down. But my favourite writing spot is my office, where I can stare out the window for hours watching the double-deckers storm by and absorbing the rhythm of the street.

LLO: Favourite bookshop in the capital and why?
London’s bursting with brilliant bookshops – John Sandoe and Foyles, to name a few – but my favourite has to be Daunt. Enter here and you feel like you’ve entered a shrine to the printed word! Books are arranged by country –  you can seek out your interest and browse the novels, non-fiction and guides with awe. The store also has branches in Holland Park, Chelsea, Belsize Park and Hampstead, but it is the Marylebone store – located in an original Edwardian bookstore – that is truly amazing.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
I live in Kensington, and I love it! It has brash new shops and restaurants mixed with small independent ones that look like they’ve been around for ages. Pubs are tucked away off busy pavements, and elegant terraced houses with private squares line the streets. You get a sense of what the city must have been like a hundred years ago. You’re also close to Kensington Gardens – where you can lounge by the gazebo in the summer and listen to music – and Holland Park, with its wonderful peacocks.

LLO: Best London discovery while working on your book?
I’ve found out so many great things about the city while working on the book that it’s hard to narrow it down! But one of my favourite locations is Lower Marsh Street, close to Waterloo. I’d been to the station so many times, but I had no idea this small street – full of gems like I Knit London (where you can drink beer and knit) and Scooterworks (a café in a former repair shop) – existed!

LLO: Which London-based writers do you most admire?
Tough question!  I am massive fan of chick lit (I have my own chick-lit novel being published next year), and London has provided a great setting for many chick-lit novels. Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones’ Diary, used to live in Notting Hill. Sophie Kinsella, who lives just outside of London, is also one of my favourites. I love to see the city through the eyes of their main characters.

LLO: Most unusual restaurant or pub you’ve come across that’s worth a visit?
Definitely has to be Ye Olde Mitre! Walk down Hatton Garden and between numbers 8 and 10, you’ll come to an arched entryway into an alley with a sign stating ‘Ye Olde Mitre 1546’. Enter the alley and you’ll see a pub many locals have yet to discover. Although the current building only dates back to the eighteenth century, the pub has existed since 1547 when it was built to serve the servants of the nearby Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The trunk of a cherry tree has been preserved in the corner of the bar, and legend has it that Elizabeth I danced the maypole around it!

Thanks Marsha!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.