Pho-nomenal Gluten Free Dinner in London || Gluten Free Restaurants
(This meal was gifted to me as part of a Coeliac UK awareness week campaign)
Pho (pronounced fuh) is a restaurant chain in the the U.K. that serves fresh and healthy authentic Vietnamese dishes, most of which are naturally gluten free. I had heard of Pho through various gluten free friends who said it was their go-to takeaway but being the cautious coeliac I am, a part of me is weary of takeaway foods and I never took the plunge. However, when they contacted me to be apart of their coeliac awareness campaign, I was elated to find out that not only were all except 2 of their dishes were gluten free, but they were also a Coeliac UK accredited restaurant chain. We opted for an early dinner on a raining Sunday evening. We sat outside under a veranda and outdoor heating because even though it is late spring, it appears someone has forgotten to tell the U.K. weather. I should mention that the reason we were sitting outside was because this was a couple of weekends ago when the lockdown regulations meant restaurants could only serve people outside.
The waitstaff ran me through the menu, pointing out the two options that were not gluten free (the two types of deep fried spring rolls), and explained a little bit about what the different types of dishes were. We ordered some 'Prawnless Crackers' while we decided what to order. They are exactly the same as prawn crackers but without the prawn. Honestly, this was revolutionary for me as prawn crackers are something I have been missing since going vegetarian.
Starters For a starter, I ordered the Vietnamese Pancake, and James ordered the Summer Rolls. I'd never had a Vietnamese Pancake before, but I love to trying new things and I was very glad I did for this. It was a crispy crepe, halved like an omelette and filled with beansprouts and egg, served with rice papers, a leafy herb and a sweet chdipping sauce. It was absolutely delicious, the waitstaff explain that the way to eat it was to take a piece of the crepe and filling, wrap is up with the herb in the rice paper and dip it in the sauce. I was later told (after I finished the entire thing) that it usually serves 2 people.
I also tried the summer rolls, which were fresh and crunchy, served with perhaps the worlds best peanut sauce. Definitely something I'd order on a warmer day.
For mains I decided that I would need to order the restaurant's namesake dish - pho. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup dish consisting of broth, rice noodles, meat/tofu, herbs, and is actually considered the national dish of Vietnam, where it's served from street stalls to restaurant, as well as eaten at homes nationwide. I opted for the Tofu and Mushroom Pho, which was served exactly when the rain started pouring. If there is a better dish to eat than pho on a cold and rainy day, please let me know because I don't believe there is one.
It was served with the herbs and condiments on the side, to add at your own desire. The pho was very warming and the broth itself was full of flavour, as was the Tofu - which if you are seasoned tofu eater you'll know that that's not an easy feat.
James ordered the Tofu and Mushroom wok fried noodles, I only had a bit but I thought they tasted great. I would probably order the wok-fried noodles next time as I would love to give them a proper go.
We reached dessert, both of us pretty full but without the bloated icky feeling which comes with perhaps less healthy, more oily food. I opted to order dessert, I had originally wanted to try the Pandan Waffle (Bánh Kẹp Lá Dứa), however they didn't have it available that night, which turned out to be a happy accident because instead I ordered the Banana Fritter (Chuối chiên). It was a deep fried banana in a rice flour batter, served with vanilla icing. The banana is served as two fritters, as in a banana halved and battered individually as like two small bananas. Why am I describing this, there is a photo right here. It was such a nice way to end a meal, the fritter was warm and crispy, banana was slightly caramelised and sweet, and went down well with the ice cream. Even though would still like to try the Pandan waffle, it would be pretty hard to steer me away from the banana fritter next time.
While I was lucky enough to be gifted this meal, I did take note of the prices. Starters and desserts were between £5.00-£7.50, and the mains were all below £12.00, most sitting at around the £10.00 mark. Which for a quality dinner out in London, is definitely on the affordable side
Overall, I would say Pho has definitely become my favourite chain restaurant in London. Not only were there a huge variety of options for gluten free people, seriously I feel like I could eat there 20 more times and try something new each time, each dish was full of flavour, healthy, and the waitstaff were extremely knowledgable, about the dishes, and the allergies! What more could you ask? The winner of the night for me (by a slim margin) was the Vietnamese Pancake - I urge you to give it a go if you are ever there.
I also want to point out that there were also plenty of vegetarian and vegan friendly options as well. The cocktail list also looked amazing and had their own pho flair to them, and I would have ordered one had it not been a Sunday night, and the fact I'm the biggest lightweight ever. Just as an example, I could have ordered the Phojito, Hà Nội Mule, or a Lemon & Basil Martini. Something to look forward to on my next visit. Big thank you to Pho Restaurant and Coeliac UK for letting me visit for Coeliac Awareness Week - I've been thoroughly won over and will be back soon!