Pho & Bun in Covent Garden
It seems that Pho & Bun has come up with the perfect answer to two very popular food trends of the last few years: the bao burger.
New Vietnamese restaurant Pho & Bun lies on busy Shaftesbury Avenue and it is easy to walk past and dismiss as another touristy Chinese/Asian restaurant on the brink of China Town. This is not an area that many foodies are inclined to visit and has probably been overlooked by many walking past into Soho.
Pho & Bun is the latest offering from Andy Le, owner of Viet Eat in Holborn, which focuses on its namesake: a delicious pho and a special burger hybrid. This fusion creates the perfect offering, a cross between the ever popular burger and bao.
Although the restaurant doesn’t look particularly fancy, it was heaving with customers at 7pm on a Tuesday and the downstairs was full by 7.30. The décor is minimal and, if not for the cold weather, you could feel you were sitting in a roadside restaurant in Vietnam.
We started with two cocktails, one spicy mango and the other a litchi martini. The martini was the better of the two, as the juice was wonderfully fresh and light: the perfect accompaniment to the prawn crackers we had to start. We followed with two Vietnamese beers. The drinks menu was relatively small, with minimal cocktails, one beer and a small offering of wine; the focus is on the food, tea and juices.
The menu hosts the normal, traditional Vietnamese offerings of summer rolls, deep fried squid, sticky ribs and some other classics. These were all delightful and we went for the mixed starter, which came in stages and was undeniably enjoyable to eat. The Rainbow Mango Salad with Tiger Prawn was the star. This was deliciously sweet and different to anything we had tasted before, similar to a Thai papaya salad but with less spice. Another favourite were the Crispy Spring Roll Pork & Crab, which were wrapped in a crispy, crackly coat and served with a light chilli vinegar.
After that we had two different phos recommended by the manager. The Dry Mixed Pho with BBQ Pork, Chicken, Prawn was deliciously sweet and sticky, a beautiful contrast to the light broth and plain noodles. The Spicy Imperial Vermicelli with Corn Fed Chicken was spicy and really flavoursome, like an exotic chicken noodle soup. However, beware of the mess caused by eating pho, as there were splashes all over the table! These dishes were tasty but not my favourite, although this is mainly because I have never been much of a pho fan. They do come with beansprouts, chilli, coriander, lemon and mint on the side though, which is a thoughtful touch. What really stood out was the main event, the Steamed Bun Tiger Prawn Burger with Lettuce, Coriander, Mango, Wasabi Mayonnaise. This was deliciously soft and crunchy, one of the nicest baos we’d ever tried and pretty much perfection.
Everything was really filling but surprisingly healthy, so we left feeling completely satisfied and not in the usual food coma that comes after an Asian meal in central London. As Vietnamese food is mainly gluten-free and healthy, its popularity will only continue to grow as people become evermore health conscious.
Pho & Bun is perfect for friends who want a quick bite and a catch up, as the music is low and the lights are bright. Soho is on your doorstep, so if the night is young who knows where you could end up?★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮