No matter where I relocate to, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and now London, there is always a search for the best and most satisfying pho. Many claim to have the best pho, but often times, I walk away disappointed. Hands down the best pho I've had is in Vietnam and in Philly, yes!, Philly on Washington St. Now that London is my new home, this became one of my top priorities aside from y'know the basics of assimilating to a new country and knowing where to shop for groceries.
My first stop was Pho Soho. This local chain has several locations all over London, ie. Pho Covent Garden, Pho Oxford Circus, etc. I've also visited the Pho Islington location. I typically order pho with thinly sliced beef if it's a new pho shop to me as a baseline dish. They have a vegan menu, so for all of my #vegan friends, feel free to order the Phở chay (tofu & button mushroom pho) or the Phở nấm rơm (three mushrooms pho).
Pho Soho is located around a ton of restaurants and places to shop. It's perfect to stop by for some warm broth and noodles after a long hard day of walking around in this cold and rainy London weather. The noodles were exactly what I expect with typical good pho. But the broth is always what makes or breaks my pho-nomenal test. And drum roll, please...
A deep-tasting beef bone broth decorated with delicately balanced flavors of corriander, thai basil, star anise, ginger, and fish sauce. It passed my taste test to satiate my recurring need for delicious pho. At under £10, it also passed my budget test.
The next place I tried was Com Viet in Covent Garden. My first light-bulb moment walking into this shop was the mix of ethnicities amongst the customers. If you have a wide range of clients, you must be doing something right. The most intriguing pho I found on the menu was the ox cheek pho. For my vegan friends, they have an Assorted Mushroom Pho available for order.
This was an unexpected flavor and texture of pho for me. The noodles were flat but wide rice noodles, so you don't have much of a chew. The beef broth was very tasty, but didn't have the typical deep, beefy flavor I was looking for. The ox cheek texture and quantity was fantastic. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this different style of pho. This shop is a tiny bit more expensive than Pho Soho, but the cost was still under £11.
My final stop was Cay Tre in Hoxton/Shoreditch. It's on the border of Hoxton and Shoreditch right off of the high street about a 5 minute walk from the Old Street tube station. The prices at Cay Tre are a bit steeper than what you'll see at the previous locations I mentioned. This may be because the property value is pretty high in this area. I only know this because I met a Hoxton local today and she told me her one-bedroom flat is currently priced at £750,000! One bedroom!!! For that reason, I made peace with spending £2 more than my usual for pho.
I ordered the "Original Pho" because I always order the most basic pho as a rule of thumb to compare pho dishes between restaurants. It came with the flat, wide rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, a lemon wedge (instead of a usual lime), a ton of steak and beef brisket, and a beef marrow stock that was cooked for 24 hours. Based on a friend's recommendation, I tried Cay Tre, but I have to admit that it was unimpressive.
The entire meal was filled with loud yelling conversations between coworkers in the middle of the restaurant. The atmosphere is a typical Vietnamese American restaurant: minimal wooden furniture but still relatively clean. I was given about a fist-sized amount of rice noodles, which was barely enough to satiate my hunger. And boy, was I hungry when I walked in. The beef was relatively tender but lacked flavor. The flavor of the broth saved the dish, but was slightly overly salted. If you're in the Hoxton or Shoreditch area and have a hankering for Pho, it's not a bad place to go. I just don't think I will be going out of my way to go to Cay Tre.
A beautiful thing I want to bring to your attention that I haven't seen before is the Jasmine tea provided at Pho Soho and other shops I've tried in London. The jasmine flower is actually placed is hot water when you order jasmine tea and it's ready to drink once the flower blooms completely, which takes about 2 minutes! It's visually beautiful and tastes very delicate. I must find out how to acquire this. I love it!
If you have any other recommendations for me when it comes to Pho in London, please email or DM me. I'd love to hear from you!
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