Any restaurant within walking distance from my couch already has a leg up on the competition. Couch to restaurant journey is about 20 minutes at a glacial pace and wearing the stiff, patent Doc Martens I just bought to relive my youth. So I was already predisposed to look favourably upon Pho House. Recently opened right next to Highbury & Islington station, helpfully adjacent to the soul-destroying light of a Tesco sign and conveniently located next to a bank machine, the only way this restaurant could be more convenient for me is if there was some kind of shuttle bus that stopped outside my door. Damn I’m lazy. So we popped in one night with high hopes. Could this restaurant save me some overground journeys to my Dalston Kingsland fave Tay Do?
I am pleased to report that yes, even though there are some definite weaknesses that could easily be improved on, this place has a lot going for it. The bowl of pho had a really nice, well-balanced broth that wasn’t too salty or bland. The beef was slightly overdone but it didn’t detract from the comforting warmth of the dish. Pho always reminds me of home and is my ultimate comfort food. The serving wasn’t as big as I’m used to but it was substantial enough for a normal person who doesn’t treat every meal like it’s a feeding frenzy.
The fried salt and pepper squid was decent – this seems like such an easy dish but I’m surprised that a lot of places can’t get this right. Squid is actually a difficult thing to cook, it’s not easy to strike that balance between soft and chewy. I felt like this needed more salt and pepper. And maybe a few more pieces of squid?
Again the prawn summer rolls were decent but needed more flavoursome herbs – and I like it when they serve it with hoisin peanut sauce, not just with some fish sauce like they did here.
This was weirdly called Tom Yum Chicken Soup. Very strange sour broth that did not taste anything like Tom Yum. The broth was too clear to have all that stuff floating in it. Also don’t get why a random Thai dish is on the menu – you don’t need to appeal to the whole damn posse – just chill and do your own thing. Be Vietnamese!
Mmm I need more Vietnamese iced coffee in my life. I need more condensed milk in my life. Some of my fondest childhood memories include secretly cracking open cans of condensed milk and just spooning it into my mouth. Heavenly. Pho House is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood – we are really lacking Vietnamese restaurants in Islington. The staff are lovely and attentive (and actually Vietnamese!) and I hope they do really well. I walked by a week later and it was packed full of people. They DO need to sort out their fried squid and serving sizes but all in good time.
39 Holloway Road
London N7 8JP