76 Shaftesbury Avenue London, W1D 6ND vieteat.co.uk/pho-bun
So small you might miss it, Pho & Bun on Shaftesbury Avenue has to compete with some big players all vying for their share of the out of towners food budget, but does it commendably well.
Inside it’s cute and charming, a little cramped so you’d best find a seat by the walls if you don’t want to be always getting up and down to let people pass.
I don’t mind this closeness though, it feels friendlier but you do need to load your dishes on your tiny table carefully to avoid stuff falling on the floor.
There is apparently more space downstairs, but people understandably prefer to be on top,
A lot of Vietnamese people are in this lunch hour. I know it’s a bit wacist to think that means the food has to be good, but it’s always worked as a good yardstick for mePho & Bun is sister/brother to Viet Eat, which everyone seems to love - I haven’t been there, myself - and the second restaurant from Andy Le
The draw are the buns made in house each day; steamed, milky bao buns. Here they don’t fold over the small filling as is traditional, but are big buns split in half to take in the payload the way a hamburger bun does.
We’ll get to those lads soon enough, but first some starters. I keep ordering chilli, salt and pepper squid wherever I go because I like it, so sue me, but here it was different from the norm.
The squid was in a light, almost frothy batter, and it came with wok fried spring onions and white onions, a handful of frondy mint leaves and a tangle of carrot.
Oh and chili, big slices that eaten whole were fearsome. I chopped them up and made myself little open sandwiches of squid, mint, onion and chili.
Rather effective I thought and the squid was good and soft. One of the best chilli squids I’ve had in a while and, like I say, I do eat a lot of them.
We also had Chargrilled Pork Lollipops with Shitake Mushroom, although I can’t say I noticed the mushrooms much. Dense patties of pork, with a stick in, they were okay without being much.
Personally, I think these things always need to be much less compressed for a more crumbly texture, this means they take up more of the grill because they have more surfaces exposed to caramelisation.
On to the buns. L went for Honey Glazed Pork Belly and Pork patties in homemade fish sauce with salad, fresh herbs, and vermicelli. He found it ‘nice and gooey’ which was a complement.
Me, I had the take on a burger; 28 Days Dry aged beef with red onion relish and smoky mayonnaise.This was like a very good burger, with the added bonus that the bun did not disintegrate and stayed with me all the way to the end. I liked the way it actually seemed to grip the filling and nothing got to slide out and hit the deck.
I suppose what I did miss was Vietnamese flavours, but as I don’t normally eat burgers at all I enjoyed it perhaps more than someone who is more burger-focused than me and so a bit blasé.
We had a couple of desserts, a coffee flavoured flan which was very good and a fried bao bun with duck egg custard, which I can only call rather peculiar and something I won’t have again.
I liked the Pho and Bun, the staff are cheerful and the atmosphere friendly and the bao buns tasty and filling for the money. I’ll be back for a bowl of pho, come the cooler months.