Vietnamese Street Food – have you ever tried it? We headed over to the newly opened Pho in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth for our first taste of Vietnamese food – and it was good.
Gunwharf Quays is home to a range of restaurants, and has recently welcomed a few new openings from smaller chains – bringing a much needed refresh to the Portsmouth food scene.
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Pho, Portsmouth brings authentic Vietnamese flavours and a unique dining experience with inviting decor, a great outside eating area and a knowledgeable team. We visited on a warm Tuesday evening and took a seat outside, enjoying the views over the marina and Portsmouth harbour.
We started off with a ‘Nojito’ each as we were both driving, with some prawn crackers served with sweet chilli dip while we perused the menu.
After much deliberation, and some helpful recommendations from our waitress, we chose three starters to share – all of which were delicious.
First up was the Nem hải sản – a large crispy spring roll with king prawn, crab & pork, served with nước chấm dipping sauce. Nước chấm is a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, fresh red chillies, garlic, water and rice vinegar. The spring roll was incredible – such an unusual combination of flavours, contrasting with the tangy dipping sauce and with a perfectly crisp outside.
Next was the Nem nướng – homemade pork & lemongrass meatballs with lettuce & herbs to wrap, served with a choice of dip. We chose to have both the peanut sauce and the nước chấm, both of which worked very well with the meatballs. They were crispy on the outside, tender and fragrant on the inside and an all round treat for the tastebuds.
Last, but not least, was the Mực chiên giòn – tender baby squid served with a DIY dipping sauce made yourself at the table with lime, salt, pepper and chilli. A very generous portion of squid, and very tasty.
The starters were a bit of a messy affair as we were advised to wrap the meatballs and spring roll in the lettuce provided and dip it in the sauces. Messy eating is always fun, and made our starters all the more enjoyable!
Starters polished off, it was time to sit with our Nojito’s and wait for the arrival of our main course – which came very promptly. There is a huge amount of choice on the menu, with noodles, salads, soups and rice dishes to choose from – all of which can cater for veggie, vegan or gluten free diets (just ask your server to point the relevant dishes out).
A feast for the eyes and the tastebuds – what a spread!
We both opted for noodle dishes – I chose a traditional pho, as I’d never had one before and felt I had to try the namesake of the restaurant. Tom went for a wok-fried dish, and we had a portion of Đậu que (green beans & sugarsnaps in sesame peanut dressing) to share – served cold.
Time to get up close and personal with the noodles. Tom chose the Phở Xào with chicken & prawns – Wok-fried flat rice noodles with lemongrass, chilli and Asian greens, served with peanuts, beansprouts & nước chấm. This is a seriously tasty dish, filling and full of flavour. The prawns were big, the chicken was tender and the noodles were simple but delicious.
I chose a house special, the Phở đặc biệt – a rice noodle soup served with king prawns, chicken & flash fried steak with garlic in beef broth. Absolutely delicious.
Each Phở is served with a plate of fresh herbs for you to add in as you please, allowing you to tailor your Phở to your own taste. On your herb plate you’ll find Saw tooth (a long herb similar to Coriander in taste), Coriander, Mint, Thai Basil, chillies, a lime wedge and raw beansprouts for crunch.
The Phở broth was meaty, rich and light all at the same time – bursting with flavour and creating the most delicious noodle soup I’ve ever tried (compared to a ramen broth, it had much more depth to the flavour). The steak was tender, the chicken was beautifully cooked and the prawns were succulent. The portion size was actually surprising large and very filling, and the delicate rice noodles worked really well with the other flavours.
I chose to add the Coriander, Saw tooth, Mint, beansprouts and Thai Basil to my soup, and the herbs really lifted the flavours of the Phở. I’m a huge fan of fresh herbs and always make sure to use plenty in my cooking at home, and I loved that you were given the option to add your own to your meal – a brilliant concept.
The Phở was so tasty that Tom had a little bit of broth envy! I did have to ask him to finish it off for me as it was so filling – which was done very willingly. When we next go back to Pho, it will be incredibly hard to decide what to order, as everything we tried on our visit was just so delicious.
After our many starters and filling mains, we didn’t have any room for dessert (next time, Pho!) – so we chose to end our meal with a traditional Vietnamese coffee. This is a concept that I hadn’t heard of or seen before, and it was different to anything I’ve ever tried.
The Vietnamese coffee (coming in at £2.95 – bargain) is called Cà phê and is served black or with condensed milk. We tried ours with condensed milk, which made for a very sweet and strong coffee – which was like a dessert on its own!
Our experience at Pho, Portsmouth ticked all of the boxes for us – excellent service, delicious food, lovely surroundings and fantastic value for money. I can say with confidence that Pho has earned a spot at the top of our list of favourite restaurants, and has inspired me to try cooking some Vietnamese food at home – it’s just so good! We loved the combinations of fresh, fragrant ingredients in all of the dishes, and the team were friendly, efficient and very knowledgeable.
The next time you’re in Portsmouth, consider visiting Pho for a meal – find their website here and their menu here. They also take bookings, but if you forget to book it’s easy to get a table on a weekday. If you visit, let me know what you order and what you think!
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