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Restaurant review: Pho, Guildford

It’s not often you get the chance to try a completely different culinary experience close to your home which rather blows you away. Happily Pho in Guildford provided that at lunchtime today, which made me very happy.

Pho is a family-run business serving great value, healthy Vietnamese street food that is cooked fresh daily. The menu is pretty wide and varied and caters for all tastes. As you might expect, vegans and vegetarians are well catered for, as are pescatarians and meat eaters like Marcus and I. The menu includes 9 starters, a few salads, some rice and noodle dishes, a small few sides and their signature Pho dishes, a Vietnamese noodle soup, served as a main.

This definition is taken from their menu:

“Phở, (pronounced fuh) is the Vietnamese national dish; an aromatic & delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please. The addition of these herbs, and the
sauces you see on the table, are an essential part of eating phở and add another dimension to the dish, tailoring it to your own personal tastes – a chilli paste for a kick, fish sauce for extra
saltiness and garlic vinegar for sourness. The broths are made in each restaurant by slowly simmering bones (for the meat dishes) for a good 12 hours and it’s this authentic preparation that is key to phở retaining all its goodness and developing its own distinctive tastes & aromas. A steaming bowl of phở, brimming with fresh ingredients, aromatic herbs and lean meat is the perfect comfort food and a magical panacea – we think it’s also the best noodle soup in the world!”

I have to pretty much agree with this. From a choice of 20 different versions, we opted, upon recommendation, for the Phở bò combo which contains steak, brisket and meatballs alongside lots of noodles (£9.50). A real meat feast. A side dish arrives with fresh herbs, including coriander and mint, plus some lime, chilli and beansprouts, all of which you are encouraged to add to the soup to taste. You can also add extras, in our case pak choi and an ‘creamy egg yolk’ for richness. This was a wonder bowl of great loveliness. Every mouthful was different. The brisket was pulled and flavoursome, the steak so tender from being poached in the broth, and plump and herby meatballs. Pickled garlic and chilli paste could be added to taste. Not at all easy to eat with a large ladle and chopsticks without getting broth all over your chin, but well worth the effort.

We also tried some wok fried noodles with chicken and prawn (£9.50) which were also very good, a very generous serving with lots of chicken and at least a dozen king prawns.

Beforehand, we shared a large crispy spring roll of king prawn, crab & pork (£4.95) and seasoned, crispy chicken wings (£6.95). The spring roll was the best I have ever tried, with a wonderful crunch and a moist but well flavoured filling. It came in two halves and the trick is to wrap it in little gem and dip into the chilli and fish sauce. The chicken wings were almost the best as well (we are busily tasting chicken wings everywhere we go these days!), with a beautiful savoury and ever so crispy skin and plenty of meat for such small offering. I could easily and very happily have eaten all eight…

No puddings for us after all that, but you do get a dozen choices. I tried a Vietnamese coffee, which was very different to your usual espresso, pretty strong but with a slight nutty flavour of spice. Marcus had a special green tea, called yulan tea balls, which consisted of a flower which opened up and infused into the boiling water. A minor work of art in its glass. We were also offered a digestif, an apple rice wine, served over ice, which tasted like a sweetish amontillado sherry. Very pleasant.

With quick service, a comprehensive and interesting menu and good value prices for beautifully fresh and inspiring food, this was a triumph. Go and try something new today!

Pho Guildford, 21 Tunsgate, Guildford GU1 3HE
Tel: 01483 355410
www.phocafe.co.uk

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