Exeter is growing into this incredible foodie destination and it’s really hard to think of a cuisine that isn’t available in the city nowadays. Adding to its ever-expanding portfolio is Pho Café, the latest restaurant to open in the Queen St. Dining quarter.
Whilst I was really sad to hear that Polpo was closing, I was excited to discover that Vietnamese street food was replacing it. We don’t have anything else like it in Exeter and I’ve never tried Vietnamese food so was excited to pop along to try something new.
So a little background on Pho first. This Vietnamese street food restaurant was opened by Stephen and Juliette Wall in 2005 after they travelled to Vietnam and fell in love with the food. Everything is made fresh every day and they pride themselves on serving healthy food that caters for all types of diets including vegetarians, vegans and gluten free.
Walking in, the first thing I noticed was that it was extremely busy. A good sign I guess seeing as the restaurant had only just opened. After weaving our way through loads of tables, we got seated by one of the only windows, which I was quite thankful for. I hate the feeling of being crammed into a small space.
To start, I went for the Cha Gio – crispy spring rolls served with lettuce and herbs to wrap and dip into a peanut sauce. These were really good. You can tell that they’ve been freshly made and they were still sizzling hot so hadn’t been sat around for ages. The peanut sauce complimented the veggie packed rolls nicely and the lettuce added an extra crunch.
I had a tough decision to make when it came to the main course. Half the menu is Pho (obviously – this is the restaurants speciality!), which is the national dish of Vietnam. It’s basically rice noodle soup and on the menu they have loads of variations of it all with different flavours. The problem? I don’t like noodle soup or any kind of broth for that matter so I had to steer clear of that section.
I decided to go for Ca-Ri King Prawn – a Vietnamese curry with veggies and mushrooms served with broken rice and king prawns. The sauce was rich and creamy, full of flavour and not too spicy. The chef was generous on the king prawn front and they were all big and juicy, just how I like them. The veggies added a bit of substance to the curry, creating a filling dish that left you satisfied. So satisfied that I couldn’t handle a pudding!
Instead, I went for a Ca Phe – a rich coffee from Caphe VN served with condensed milk. This is the smoothest coffee I have ever tasted and was the perfect compliment to the food I had just indulged in. It almost tasted chocolatey as well which made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on a dessert!
All of this was accompanied by a Phojito, Pho’s take on the Mojito. It was fresh and crisp, very refreshing on a warm summers evening.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I write honest reviews. I always let you know if I didn’t enjoy something and unfortunately I have to say that I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere at Pho. Whilst the food was delicious and I can’t fault it at all, the restaurant was way too noisy and the tables were crammed in to the point where I felt so on edge. The waiting staff had to keep squeezing themselves in between our table to serve the next they were that close together. When I popped to the loo, I had to squeeze past other people who were trying to enjoy their dinner plus shimmy past the kitchen and staff who were trying to pick up dinner plates. The whole place is just set out really poorly and I just don’t think it’s a big enough unit for Pho. The music coupled with just how many people had been crammed into the restaurant made it so hard for Ollie and I to hear each other and we were getting frustrated that we had to keep shouting at each other. I’m not one for tight, dark and dingy spaces anyway and this just made my evening a little too uncomfortable sadly.
Overall, my first Pho experience was ok. As I said, the food was faultless and the staff were welcoming and friendly. An extra special touch was that they explained how to eat everything that was placed in front of us to get the very best out of the flavours. The service was quick and everything on the menu seemed to be quite reasonably priced. My recommendation would be to reduce the number of tables that are in there to create a bit more of a relaxing atmosphere and turn the music down a notch!
Have you eaten at Pho? What did you think? Leave me a comment below!