In association with Pho
When one couple fell in love on holiday, it was the start of a very tasty adventure for all of us. It was the start of our passion for all things Pho.
That feeling you have, when you discover your new favourite thing in the world ever? For Pho founders, Stephen and Juliette Wall, it wasn’t enough to just tell their friends. They wanted to spread the word: they’d fallen in love with Vietnamese food.
It was during their year spent travelling the world that the pair first tasted the flavour-packed broth that is pho: an aromatic and delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please. Wherever they travelled, their thoughts kept returning to those street-food stalls where they’d perch on a pair of high stools, in Ho Chi Minh City, savouring the country’s national dish.
“This is the best thing we’ve ever eaten,” they agreed. “We have to take this home with us.”
But, whereas you or I might come home and promptly dismiss our holiday resolutions as nothing more than impractical, sun-induced fantasies, Stephen and Juliette were built of sterner stuff. They quit their jobs, and poured their life savings into opening Britain’s first Vietnamese street food restaurant – Pho, in Clerkenwell, London. This was back in 2005, when street food was a concept as alien to us as the flavoursome broth.
Now there’s an industrious family of Pho dotted around the land. We can enjoy two near to us: in Leeds’ Trinity Kitchen, and Manchester’s re-energised Corn Exchange. Each one as authentic as the last. “This is no fusion Asian affair,” says Pho’s co-founder, Jules Wall. “It’s authentic Vietnamese food.”
“It’s not surprising how well we’ve taken to it,” she adds. “It’s just so wonderful!”
We’ve not yet fallen quite as deeply as the Vietnamese people – who enjoy pho for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, lured by the infinite varieties of the dish, we’re getting there: and we’re learning what makes the perfect pho for us. A little more salt from the fish sauce? A dash of lime? More coriander? A kick of garlic? Pho’s adaptability makes it the ultimate comfort food – whatever mood you’re in, there’s a pho for you.
“It’s warming, filling, healthy, and it’s even said to cure colds and hangovers,” Jules says.
That’ll be because it’s the original slow food – the source broth, made from a good bone stock, bubbles away for 12 to 15 hours, concentrating the flavours until they become lip-smackingly delicious. And healthy too – with rice the main carbohydrate, their menu’s naturally gluten free. And hardly any dairy is used either.
Add to that a sociable array of sharing platters for starters – try the divine crispy spring rolls or the made-in-house pork and lemongrass meatballs – or the crunchy salads made with shredded chicken, peanuts or dried shrimp.
“My favourite? The spicy brisket pho. It’s packed with tender beef pulled off the bone, served with extra chilli paste, and I also like sharing starters with friends,” Jules says.
If you’re in Manchester, you have to try the cocktails too – mixed with premium imported Vietnamese rice wine. They’re dangerously addictive.
“All we wanted to do was share our passion for this incredible cuisine,” Jules says. “We’re as committed to spreading the word today as we’ve ever been.”
Isn’t it lovely when a holiday love affair blossoms into something deep and meaningful?
Leeds, LS1 5AY
0113 834 5029
Monday to Thursday
11:30am – 9pm
Friday to Saturday
11:30am – 9:30pm
11:30am – 6pm
Unit 15, The Corn Exchange, 37 Hanging Ditch,
Manchester, M4 3TR
0161 464 9779
Monday to Saturday
12pm – 11pm
12pm – 10:30pm