Church St, Cardiff. 029 2269 0020 / phocafe.co.uk
Food **** Atmosphere ***
The night we went to Pho saw rain in what can only be described as biblical proportions, which made the whole experience feel as if we were on the set of Blade Runner: neon signs, wet soggy people dashing past and a Vietnamese noodle bar.
Pho, the dish itself, is pronounced ‘fuh’, the restaurant ’foe’: the latter is a Vietnamese street food restaurant chain with nearly 30 branches across the UK. Despite being a chain, which we usually stay away from reviewing, it’s well done and authentic. Cardiff’s Pho has just opened in Church Street, which has filled its empty units and now hosts a plethora of good eateries: next door is the excellent, cheerful looking Mowgli’s and the other side Honest Burger.
Pho is bigger inside than it looks and is fairly unremarkable in its décor: basic wooden furniture, a quite dark interior and low ceilings, interesting artwork on the stairs but pretty much perfunctory as a space. The menu is very informative, and caters for vegans, dairy-free, gluten-free, under 50 calories and meat eaters – very much aware of their market, they have embraced all.
We went straight for mains, ignoring the varied starters options. My meat-guzzling friend chose Pho Tai, thinly sliced steak in a beef broth; I, a still on the fence veggie, had Pho Xao and prawn – wok-fried noodles with prawns and all the trimmings. The mission statement is very much all about fresh preparation at each branch – no packets or microwaves here.
There really is something for everyone at Pho. It’s pretty much no frills: pick what you want, get it fresh and sent to your table, by personable staff and off you go. It’s not really an all-night, kick-back-and-relax experience; indeed, they also offer a pho to go, which is exactly what it says – takeaway and delivery service, which does work a treat. An interesting addition to Cardiff city centre, Pho serves a gap In the market and ought to do well.
words ANTONIA LEVAY