Are You Pho Real?!

When a new restaurant comes to Birmingham, normal people are excited and cannot wait to try it, but food bloggers get their cameras and notebooks ready for that first, second and third taste. Well, maybe that is just me when I visited Pho. Pho is a Vietnamese restaurant and their branch in Grand Central is the first in Birmingham. I have never been to Vietnam, I would love to FYI, so I didn't know what to expect. The one thing that was, and is still, bothering me was how to pronounce Pho, is it "Pho", "Fuh," "Foe"?! I found out it is commonly pronounced "Fuh", which is probably why my cousin who visited Vietnam recently couldn't find any Pho because I pronounced it wrong when I recommended the dish. Anyway, enough of my waffling, time to talk about the food.

My first visit to Pho was with Ting from The Ting Thing and I don't think either of us were enthused by the experience. It was around 8pm on a weekday when we visited, the restaurant wasn't particularly busy and we were seated straight away. We both ordered a juice, starter and main. Although the restaurant wasn't busy, the waiter was rushing around and was trying to do fifty million things at one time. For my starter, shown above, I ordered Cha Gio aka spring rolls with a peanut sauce. I like the idea of wrapping the roll with the mint and lettuce and then dipping it in the sauce but the spring roll had been overcooked and the peanut sauce was nice but a little chunky. I think that the roll may have been refried or reheated and this may have lead it to be dry and not as tasty as it could be. Put it this way, I have had better and would not be having this starter again. 

For my main, I went for the Ca Ri aka "rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with veggies and mushrooms, topped with nuts and served with broken rice". This was also very disappointing and was just ok. There was nothing bad about it but there was nothing amazing about it either. I was just thinking that I wish I had gone to Wagamama whilst I was eating this, don't you hate when that happens?!

The food was just ok on my first trip to Pho but the service was atrocious. The waiter was in such a rush to get us out that he had come over with a card machine before we had even checked the bill or get our cards out. The whole experience left a sour taste in my mouth but after many people telling me of the great experiences they had had, I knew I had to go again.

So I visited for the second time with my mother, someone who loves Wagamama just as much as I do. I was going with some pretty low expectations this time but I knew to try something new this time.

For my starter this time, I went for Gỏi Cuốn, which is summer rolls made of rice paper, filled with herbs, veggies and vermicelli and served with sweet chilli sauce. I really liked how fresh this tasted and how light it was. I liked the addition of the mint and the sweet chilli sauce, this would go quite well with a light soy sauce or even a thick peanut sauce. I would definitely have this again. A winner of a starter for me!

We got some prawn crackers this time, that were HUGE! Thick, crispy and tasty and I loved the sauce that they came with too. However, they didn't taste fresh so I think they may be fried in bulk at the start of the day or may be from a packet.

For my main, I went for the main attraction pho, Phở Nấm Rơm to be exact, which is enoki, shiitake and button mushrooms and I added tofu to the mix. When the pho arrives, it comes with a separate dish that has mint, beansprouts, chilli, lime and other herbs on it. You can add them to the dish and each adds a different flavour. I just piled the whole things into the pho and hoped for the best. I mean, is there such a thing as too much flavour?! I like all the flavours together and the idea of the dish, there is definitely an art to eating it. I found this is to eat the noodles and ingredients within it with chopsticks, which is actually easier than using a fork, and then to slurp the broth or soup with the wooden spoon. The tofu was the only letdown of this dish, as it was rubbery and soggy.

Note to self: do not have tofu from anywhere but Wagamama in the Bullring!

So the second trip to Pho was a lot more successful and I was finally seeing what the fuss about Pho was all about but I had to go once more to make a concrete decision.

My third trip, in this post, to the restaurant was with my an old friend of mine that hadn't even been to Grand Central before, what is that about Liz?! So I was just as intrigued to see what she thought.

This time for my starter, I went for the Mực Chiên Giòn, which is tender fried baby squid with a salt, pepper and lime dip. I liked the idea of the dip and it tasted amazing too and the squid was nice but I like my squid or calamari in thick chunky pieces, think Wagamama's Chilli Squid, so this wasn't enough to sink my teeth into but it was ok.

I tried another pho this time and went for the Bún chay Huế, which is a hot and spicy tofu and mushroom pho and I added an egg to the dish. This was again a nice dish and I liked the hot and spicy aspect to it but the tofu was not up the scratch, like it was on my second trip, and the dish wasn't something to rave about.

Overall, I like the idea of Pho, the dish and restaurant, and it is nice to see a different type of cuisine in Birmingham but I just cannot get on board with it. It's ok but nothing I would rave about.

Would I return? No

Food - 2/5
Innovative ideas, made with ingredients that are fresh but it is ok.

Dairy-free options? - 5/5
The whole menu is dairy-free except the dessert menu, the stock can easily be made veggie so it is easy to be vegan and dine here too.

Service - 3/5
The service on the first occasion was rushed and lacked that personal touch, it was friendlier on the second and on the last it was good. Slowly but surely it is improving but it has a way to go.

Cleanliness - 5/5

Location - 5/5
In Grand Central, so very easy to find in the Food Hall.

Value for Money - 2/5
Big portions, with an average of 25 pounds per person for a starter, main and juice, but not satisfying enough to justify the cost.

Worth trying? Yes but for the sake of saying you tried it.

Instagram worthy? Ya-huh!

Overall - 23/30 

Have you tried any of these dishes at Pho? Do you agree with my opinion?


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