Restaurant Review: Viet Eat Pho & Bun, Shaftesbury Avenue in London
Situated on the ever busy Shaftesbury Avenue, in close proximity to both China Town and Soho, there is a new style restaurant that aims to revolutionise the way we eat Vietnamese street food. Building on the already successful Viet Eat in Holborn, comes Viet Pho & Bun, which was created in October 2015. A small restaurant with big ideas!
Stripped back décor, with exposed brick work and open ceilings, with Vietnamese style street art on one wall, all contributes to the street food vibe. Old fashioned black and white photographs on the wall from Vietnam, combined with a basic setting of small wooden table and chairs (which are surprisingly very comfortable throughout the meal) go some way to provide their guests with an authentic backdrop in which to enjoy sophisticated and elegant Vietnamese street food.
For my starter I opted for the Fresh Summer Roll with Tiger Prawn, served with a peanut and chilli sauce. Four generous sized servings of fresh lettuce wrapped around noodles, thinly sliced carrot, cucumber and various herbs, in turn encased in rice paper, with a whole tiger prawn sandwiched between the rice paper and lettuce. Not only did it look impressive but it tasted good too. My dining partner chose the Crispy Spring Roll Vegetable, served with soy sauce. Fresh vegetable rolls fried in batter and served hot, they were really delicious. The soy sauce also went really well with the fresh lettuce in my starter too.
For our first drinks, I sampled their Hanoi Daizy: gin, Cointreau, strawberry, lemon and vanilla. The sweet flavours from the strawberry were complimented with just an undertone of the raw alcohol flavour. All served over large pieces of crushed ice and with a whole strawberry delicately placed on the edge of the glass. My companion chose their Passion About Fruit, a mocktail comprising of Passionfruit, vanilla and lime. Delicious because no one flavour overpowered the other, instead giving a really refreshing fruit juice drink, perfect on a warm summer’s evening.
For my main course, I took the ever so helpful waiter’s (by the name of Babis) advice and chose their Pho Noodle Soup with Rare Sliced Beef. Strips of beef, onion and lots of flat noodles, served in a deep bowl of rich beef stock that has been simmered for 18-24 hours, with a side plate of bean sprouts, a generous helping of fresh herbs, lemon and sliced red chillis to mix in. You won’t be leaving here hungry if you order this. The extended simmering time develops the strong beef flavours and also enhances the onion taste too. However this meal may be better suited to a sharing dish due to the sheer volume of beef stock and noodles which, whilst full of beef and onion flavour, could have done with a little more variation of flavour in each mouthful.
My dining partner chose their famous Steamed Bao Burger, with 28 days dry aged beef, with red onion relish, house pickle and smokey mayonnaise, with cheese an optional extra. As soon as it arrived it was clear to see why this dish is so popular. An exceptionally light and soft steamed burger bun, with a tender and juicy beef burger, overflowing with flavours from the accompanying fillings. I was grateful to have been allowed a couple of mouthfuls and found myself wishing I’d chosen differently, so delectable was this burger. Whilst the array of mayonnaise, pickle and cheese certainly enhanced the overall taste, it was the incredibly light bun that transformed a regular burger into a real treat for the palate. Absolutely superb.
Anyone who is a fan of Man v Food will be aware of the popularity in eating challenges and for those so inclined, Pho &Bun offer their own Bunanza challenge for those hungry enough to attempt it. 15 minutes to eat an enormous burger stack containing 4 beef burgers, pork, prawns, mango, vegetables and cheese, encased each end by their light steamed bun, plus a large portion of sweet potato fries, for your chance to win a £50 gift voucher (and have your £25 bill waivered) not to mention winning bragging rights amongst your ‘foodie’ friends.
Whilst we didn’t go for the challenge, we did order a side portion of sweet potato fries which came with chilli mayonnaise. The fries were deliciously crispy on the outside and perfectly light and fluffy on the inside. Thankfully my dining partner didn’t mind sharing as I couldn’t resist them. The chilli mayonnaise also had a surprisingly strong, but pleasant ‘kick’ every now and then too.
We ordered further cocktails and I had the Lychee Martini which consisted of vodka, lychee, kaffir lime and ginger. A tangy yet very sweet drink, with a delectably strong lychee tone, served with a lime slice. My dining partner joined me on the alcoholic cocktails this time and wisely chose their Saigon Jasmine: Jasmine vodka, green tea, lime and vanilla. I was skeptical at first, but having sampled it, I was completely won over. Charmingly light, the vanilla negated the sharpness of the vodka and the subtle green tea undercurrents made this the perfect cocktail choice for when you’ve just enjoyed a very hearty meal.
Next up was my favourite part of any meal: the dessert choice. We were generously given three to enjoy and each one had a brilliant array of flavours to arouse the taste buds. First up was their Pandan & Coconut Panna Cotta, served with a refreshing peanut and pineapple salsa. A deliciously moist and light panna cotta, with a surprise hint of chilli. The almost earthiness of the Pandan plant really enhanced the flavour, working very well with the coconut too. The unusual parings in the salsa only helped to compliment all the other flavours even more. Second was a Coconut Snow with Vietnamese Ice Coffee. Ice coffee served over coconut ice cream. The smoothness of the coffee is balanced by the nuttiness of the coconut. Served with a straw to help you drink it as it melts. Lastly, but by no means least of the three, was the Flan Caramel with Vietnamese Ice Coffee. A scrumptiously light flan, deliciously sweet, served with that same smooth ice coffee. The caramel flan was superbly paired with the iced coffee.
On a Wednesday evening, the general clientele was a pleasant mixture of a mainly young crowd, likely pre-theatre goers, with a few older couples, plus one party celebrating a birthday. There is also a separate, larger dining area downstairs but to really enjoy the ambience I would suggest staying upstairs. There is a lovely juxtaposition between the non-fussy surroundings, and the fine dining style presentation of street food. With casual background music at the perfect volume (a rarity in so many venues) this little eatery, tucked away down a popular main street in London is definitely worth a visit.
Address: 76, Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 6ND / 020 7287 3528