Flu season is upon us and despite our best efforts (and copious doses of Lempsip), my boyfriend and I are well and truly feeling it. So it’s safe to say that on the evening we headed down to Pho, our heads were a little fuzzy, noses a little sore and eyes a little tender - we needed some steaming bowls of pho, and we needed it fast.
Offering shelter from the biting sea breeze, Pho’s contemporary venue is flanked by modern art and neon signs, with floor to ceiling windows and a streetside terrace perfect for sunnier climes. Grabbing a table in the centre of the action we were warmly welcomed with a generous portion of prawn crackers (£2.95), along with some tongue-tingling sweet chilli sauce. The perfect antidote to our growing stomach rumbles, these babies boasted all the crunch and none of the grease. And to counteract the aforementioned tongue tingling? Two of the gin spritz (£7.25) - a Tanqueray, cucumber, lime and mint mix which tasted like the slightly cooler cousin of the much-loved mojito and went down a treat.
Wolfing down the crackers (it’s the only way they can be eaten) it was time to get serious. The menu here is split into starters, salads, soups, noodles and sides, so looking to hedge our bets we opted for one of each (minus the salad, you’re supposed to feed a cold after all), and a game of plate Tetris was soon underway.
The first thing to catch my eye? A portion of crispy pork spring rolls (£5.95), served with a generous side of peanut dipping sauce. These tender little rolls were pretty hazardous when it came to chopsticks, and we quickly abandoned our efforts, getting stuck in with our hands instead. The crispy coating was slightly salted, perfectly pairing with the juicy morsels of pork that hid inside - and when dipped in the sauce? It was a taste sensation, that ended in a battle for the final bite.
On the recommendation of our waitress, we also opted for a portion of the Bò lá lốt: beef wrapped in betal leaves, with rice vermicelli sheets & nước chấm (£7.50). The flat pack furniture of the Vietnamese cuisine world, it was up to us to assemble this summer roll style dish for ourselves. Mine took a pretty bad tear at the start of its construction, but luckily the taste was just as good and I’m pretty happy sticking to my day job.
Next up was a generous mound of wok-fried noodles with lemongrass, Asian greens, chicken and prawns (£9.75). The silky flat rice noodles were complemented by the crunchy texture of the peanuts and crisp bean sprouts that sat atop, and a quick dousing of the sweet chilli vinaigrette and homemade fish sauce meant this plate was on to yet another winner.
Arriving alongside was a steaming bowl of this places’ most-oft ordered dish - the phở chín, a beef brisket slow-cooked in broth (£9.50). Another DIY job, it was accompanied by a plate of herbs, chillies and greens - rapidly setting the coriander aside (a much-loathed enemy), I heartily dunked the rest into the bowl. While the pho was no doubt warming, and the beef fell apart in the mouth, it lacked the depth of flavour I had hoped for. A treat for our head colds? Pho sure. But for the tastebuds? Not so much.
Luckily, we still had a smidge of space left for dessert (I like to call this particular smidge gluttony). A chocolate truffle slab with a perfectly formed ball of green tea ice cream (£6.95) did just the trick, leaving our trip on a sweet note that far-surpassed the effects of any honey and lemon concoction.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Offering a place of sanctuary against Brighton’s ice-cold winds, Pho’s hearty menu is the equivalent of a warm embrace. Serving up a lighter-style of classic comfort food, head here for a feast of flavours and you won’t be disappointed. A return trip, I reckon, is just what the doctor ordered.