It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a review, but rest assured I’ve still been eating my way around London and Norfolk/Suffolk in my absence. Lots of reviews are coming soon, it’s just been a very hectic few weeks. In the meantime, here’s my review of Vietnamese street food cafe, Pho & Bun on Shaftesbury Avenue.
I’ve walked past a few times and had their set menu on my list of deals to try, but until a couple of weeks ago hadn’t visited. So I was very excited when they invited me to come down and try them out. Right next to Chinatown and in walking distance to lots of theatres, this is a bit of a hidden gem in an otherwise quite touristy area. Inside is intimate, the upstairs is small and tiny steep stairs at the back lead down to a laid-back basement dining area. Seated in the corner by the bar, one of the first things we noted was how many people were dining on their own. Lots of diners were obviously regulars, recognised by the staff and ordering without looking at the menu.
We were there to try their 4 course set menu which includes a drink, two starters, a main and dessert for £23.95 each.
All six of the starter options sounded delicious, I could happily have just had all starters! To try the maximum amount of food, we picked four between us and shared them all.
The Summer rolls came filled with king prawns with a spicy dip sprinkled with peanuts. The rolls were so fresh and the peanuts and salad added a nice crunch to the bite – perfect for the hot weather.
Pork and crab seemed an odd combination for a spring roll and we were intrigued. They were tasty with the sweet chilli dip but neither of us could taste any crab.
We’re sometimes a bit sceptical about ordering wings at places that don’t specialise in them. Though we love them we’ve had some terrible ones in the past – all bones and no meat, too greasy, too salty, underdone – you name it, we’ve had it! So we were very pleasantly surprised by the sticky honey chicken wings at Pho & Bun. They were decent – a great balance of sweet and savoury with plenty of tender, juicy chicken.
Last up was the not-too-spicy and well-seasoned chilli salt and pepper squid, served with a carrot salad.
Overall, we were really impressed with the quality and portion size of the starters. Now on to mains!
The mains you can go for on the set menu are a selection of traditional Vietnamese pho or buns. The bun options are fusion-esque burgers in steamed bao buns. I chose the 28 day aged beef bao burger.
Paul went for the 8 hour confit pork belly bao bun.
I’m sure the beef burger one wasn’t traditional (especially with the addition of cheese and sweet potato fries!) but they were very, very satisfying. We both preferred the beef to the pork but I’d happily eat both again.
I wasn’t sure what desserts are traditional Vietnamese so chose the coconut panna cotta with pandan. Paul opted for the coconut snow with Vietnamese iced coffee. My panna cotta and Paul’s coconut snow were very similar in texture but very different in taste – neither of us really knew what to expect from coconut snow – maybe a shaved ice? Vietnamese coffee is my favourite, I love the sweetness and always get one iced from Broadway market, so I loved Paul’s dessert.
I haven’t tried Pandan before and it was quite a subtle flavour in the panna cotta. It had a perfect wobble, was fresh and accompanied by (what I think was) sweet pineapple and chilli on the side and finished with salted peanuts crumbled over the top. It was refreshing and light which was definitely a good thing since we were pretty full after our bao burgers!
We really enjoyed our visit to Pho & Bun. For £23.95 including a glass of wine or beer, I’d say it’s one of the best value set menus I’ve had in central London. The quality of the food is great and having had a flick through the normal menu, there’s certainly a lot of small plates I’d like to return to try. The starters really shone for us. Most people there seemed to be eating the pho which I think is certainly the more traditional option, though the burgers were delicious. This would be a great spot to stop off for a pre-theatre meal and the set menu has enough options to keep everyone happy.
I was a guest of Pho & Bun, but as always, the opinion is 100% mine and honest and in this case, I’d happily return as a paying customer!
Nearest tube: Leicester Square
What are your favourite set menu deals that I should try? Let me know in the comments below.