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 everdaylife.style

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!

IMG_1390

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.

IMG_1388

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.

IMG_1392

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.

IMG_1393

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.

IMG_1394

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.

IMG_1396

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: http://www.phocafe.co.uk

 

Gözleme on Brick Lane

The bland colour of the pastries didn’t stand out to me from the boiling vats of vibrant Sri Lankan curries or bright green veggie plates covering the Ethiopian stall, but the lovely Turkish cook handed me a piece of Gözleme and all other options went out the window.

I’ve tried the Spanish paella, the Tibetan momos, the Peruvian quinoa stew and the Japanese okonomiyaki and all was delicious so it was time for something different.

Last weekend, I brought a few friends to the East End to experience Brick Lane and Columbia Road on a Sunday afternoon. We shuffled through the crowded flower stalls listening to the Cockney vendors shouting their wares and then slowly made our way down Brick Lane (where we saw a photographer taking photos of the backs of people’s heads with a wide angle lens), in search of lunch.

The mingling scents of different types of food hit you as soon as you walk inside the main food hall. It’s overwhelming. But I know have a new favourite – the Turkish Gözleme from the friendly vendor who tossed an extra tomato over my shoulder into the little container as I walked away. He told it’s food to avoid bad eyes (göz means “eye”).

It’s made on thin pastry, with bits of tomato, mushroom, spinach, parsley, feta cheese and mince meat. And it’s delicious. The pastry is filled and folded and cooked on a hot griddle until it’s golden brown then cut up and stacked in four pieces (of which I could only manage to eat two…so share!)


The end – iPhone photo with suicidal tomato

We ate outside in the courtyard, in the sunshine, before heading off to one of my favourite places – 1001 – to wash it all down with some drinks!

London Street Food

One thing I will certainly miss when I leave London is the incredible choice of street food from all over the world, particularly in the markets around Camden and Brick Lane.

There’s a choice of Ethiopian, Brazillian, Peruvian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Burmese, Mexican, French, Greek, Moroccan, South African, Jamaican, Sri Lankan, Indian and just about anything else you can imagine.

Here’s a few snapshots of the vendors and food on offer around Brick Lane to get your mouth watering:

Brick Lane Street Food

Japanese Food Vendor

Brick Lane Street Food 2

Brick Lane Street Food 3

Brick Lane Street Food 4

Jerk Chicken

African Food Vendor

London Street Food: Okonomiyaki and Onigiri

Sunday Up Market on Brick Lane is the perfect place to nip in for some street food from all over the world. My nose led me to a Japanese stall last weekend where I tried something completely new: okonomiyaki and onigiri. It was the only stall with an exceptionally long queue rather than a mass of people crowding to be served. And, it smelled absolutely delicious.

I’m not a fan of veggies, generally. I’m a carnivore. This afternoon, however, I went vegetarian and it was, admittedly, scrumptious.

Okonomiyaki is a savoury “pancake”. It can be made with a variety of ingredients, but these particular ones has cabbage and some other veggies like corn which were mixed together in a bowl (probably with something else I didn’t see). This mixture is scooped onto a grill in a plate-sized heap, covered with cheese and left under a lid to cook and brown slightly on the top. After a while, it is brushed with a “special” sauce, cooked a bit longer and then scooped onto a plate. It is then drizzled with mayo and seaweed flakes and handed to you with a fork. 

On the side, you can order onigiri. Again, there are many ways to make these, but the one I had was a triangular rice “ball” cooked in sesame oil and smothered in garlic soy sauce. At the end, it is taken out of the pan and wrapped in a rectangular piece of seaweed.

My experience of Japanese food comes entirely from all sorts of sushi, so this was a great taste of something new.