It is a busy Sunday at Gunwharf Quays and your Dish Detective is ready to try some delicious Vietnamese food at Pho. The restaurant sits on one of the balconies in Gunwharf Quays, overlooking the marina.
A good spot to sit on a sunny day with the Spinnaker Tower to your right and the luxury yachts and sunshine reflecting off the water in front of you.
Sadly, it is a little too chilly to enjoy the view from the outside so we opt to savour it from behind a window.
We have not booked and the restaurant is pretty full, but it is only around five minutes before we are shown to our seats, which gives us just enough time to read the menu and decide what we’ll be tucking into.
We are initially offered a table right by the door, which on a cold, windy day, isn’t ideal.
After asking to move to a more central table, we are told by a less-than-cheery waitress that we’ll have to wait 10 minutes.
Luckily, we don’t.
Once seated, we are served pretty quickly by a friendly staff member.
However, we are teased by them bringing over another table’s order twice which makes it feel like our food is taking a little longer.
The atmosphere inside is pleasant.
The music is a little loud but if anything it adds to the atmosphere – sometimes it’s a little too intense when you can hear the next table’s conversation – or worse, them chewing.
Drinks aren’t usually a talking point when you eat out, unless they’re alcoholic or come with sweets, but the spicy lemonade is an exception to this.
Hints of ginger and mint are what give it the spice, and it is a great twist on a standard homemade lemonade.
And the spice doesn’t stop there. The starters come promptly after the drinks. The first is cánh gà – crispy seasoned chicken wings with a sriracha dipping pot (£7.50).
One word: delicious. They have so much flavour without adding too much to the chicken, and as a chicken wing connoisseur, they tick a lot of boxes – especially the sriracha dip.
The next is chả giò – crispy pork spring rolls served with lettuce and peanut sauce (£5.95). They say you should wrap the spring rolls in lettuce and dip them in the peanut sauce, so we do and it tastes great.
Unfortunately, it goes a little downhill from here . The waiter is a little too keen and takes my plate away mid-chicken wing.
I’ve never scoffed chicken so quickly in my life – well maybe in Ken’s at 2am.
For main I order the chicken and prawn pho xao, which is wok-fried flat rice noodles with lemongrass, chilli and Asian greens (£9.75). It is a little bland.
I’m not sure if that’s generally how Vietnamese food is served and nothing was cooked badly, but unfortunately it lacks umami.
Maybe if it was covered in the peanut sauce that came with the spring rolls, I would feel differently.
However, one thing I can’t moan about is the portion sizes, which are very generous and certainly satisfying.
For three of us, with starters, mains and drinks (soft and alcoholic) it comes to £65, which I don’t feel is bad considering we all leave full.
Usually, when I leave a restaurant I’m either saying ‘that was lush’ or ‘that was gross’. However, I don’t say either of these things after eating at Pho. I’d probably go again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
Though I managed to eat two courses entirely with just chopsticks – if that isn’t a sign of a successful meal, I don’t know what is.
Pho, Gunwharf Quays
Tel no: (023) 9283 2111
Ratings (out of five);