They stumble across immigration. After months of use their torn, muddy rucksacks appear as if dense, mosey shells upon their backs. They have acquired a golden glow, but lost possessions. They soon fall back into the rhythm of British culture, the disappointing climate, work and social routines. Hundreds of gap year students return from South East Asia unsure if they truly 'found themselves'. Later on, it may be weeks or months, but eventually their stomachs will grumble, yearning for the soothing noodle soups, the unique curries and not forgetting light beers the Asian continent has to offer. Calling Dominos is no longer an option. One may think a £800 return ticket to Ho Chi Minh or Bangkok is the only answer. This is not the case; Pho is the answer.
This small family run Vietnamese street food restaurant, specialising in the national dish which it is named after, has 6 intimate cafés throughout London and 1 in Brighton. I was lucky enough to discover the Spitalfields Pho as I wondered the streets of East London.
This is heaven to both a traveller and a food lover. The menu is affordable, fresh and healthy offering a range of South East Asian traditional dishes. Pho Spitalfields is an informal and relaxing place to eat. The concrete floor, wooden chairs, wicker lampshades and bricked walls put a contemporary spin on Asian dining. The space is open, clean and the staff friendly and helpful. The tables are dressed with authentic Asian sauces such as Tü ung ot.
The menu ranges from familiar starters, such as spring rolls, (vegetarian: £4.45, meat: £4.75), to less known Vietnamese salads called Goi, (ranging from £5.45-£7.95). My favourite is Pho Tai noodle soup, a thinly sliced beef option only £7.95 - Great value for a main dish in Central London. Everyone can enjoy the noodle soup: You are able to choose how spicy you would like your individual meal and can add vegetables to the soup to suit your personal taste. The dish is soothing, light and bursting with some amazing flavours from squeezes of lime to sprinkles of chilli.
On top of offering traditional dishes the menu contains some of South East Asia's favourite beverages, which are sometimes difficult to find in the U.K, such as rice wine, (£2.50), and Lao's national Beer, (small: 3.70, large: £6.50). These are slightly more expensive than their British counterparts, (small beer from £3.60), but I believe it is worth paying a little extra for something different.
The menu describes noodle soup as 'the soul of the [Vietnamese] nation' something that I was lucky enough to witness firsthand. The Vietnamese people can be seen tucking into this national speciality from vendors in the early hours of the morning, late afternoon and midnight. I, like many other travellers, wondered if the population even slept. Food is such an important and instrumental part of South East Asian culture it is great to find Pho, a genuine street food restaurant in the heart of London. Pho is a hidden treasure for those wanting to recapture memories or simply wanting to try something new.