This is our verdict on the food at Vietnamese restaurant in Sheffield's Leopold Square
Opening just a month before the first national Covid lockdown hit, Vietnamese restaurant Pho has not had the easiest start.
The restaurant is located in busy city centre courtyard, Leopold Square, and is one of the medium-sized chain’s 32 branches, the majority of which are located in London.
The first Pho was opened by Stephen and Juliette Wall in June 2005 after they travelled to Vietnam and “fell in love with the food.”
Today, the business is still “family-run” with an emphasis on “great value, healthy Vietnamese street food that is cooked fresh daily.”
Their Sheffield branch opened its doors for the first time on Valentine’s Day 2020, and aside from the few weeks that followed, this July marked the first time the restaurant has been able to operate without any restrictions in place.
My dining companion and I went along to sample some of the dishes on offer on a moderately busy summer’s evening.
I was pleased to see there was a sizeable selection of vegetarian dishes to choose from, and to start, I opted for the Vietnamese pancakes served with meat substitute, This Isn’t Chicken.
The pancakes had to be assembled with leaves, and rice paper you need to dip in chilli sauce and wrap using leaves. I wasn’t particularly adept at it but we were given clear instructions from Pho’s obliging staff, and it was a nice bit of messy fun.
The This Isn’t Chicken has a very meaty texture, perfect for vegetarians like me who miss the taste of meat; and it worked perfectly with the pancakes.
The chilli sauce had just the right level of spice which helped to give it a little kick, but managed not to overwhelm the rest of the flavours in play.
Meanwhile, my dining companion chose prawn summer rolls with peanut sauce, which were served with yielding softened rice paper enveloping crunchy carrot, plump king prawns, enoki mushroom and crisp lettuce with a warming chilli hit. He described it as a really fresh-tasting cool first course.
For my main I plumped for Vietnam’s national dish of pho, an aromatic rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs, specifically the hot and spicy soup with tofu and mushrooms.
You are offered a choice of bún or phở noodles and I opted for the former.
The staff were very helpful, and talked you through the dishes on offer; and suggested I take a bib in case of splattering from the broth, which was most definitely necessary in my case.
Mint and Thai basil, which tastes similar to liquorice, were among the assortment of herbs that the dish was served with, and really helped to elevate it, once added to the broth.
The soup had an embarassment of deep, rich delicious Pho flavours, and I savoured every mouthful.
My dining companion chose the classic pho with beef three ways (steak, brisket and meatballs). He says the base had all the depth you'd expect of a slowly-cooked bone broth. The brisket had a deep flavour of its own, and a great texture, falling into tender flakes. Then, fresh-tasting steak and crumbly meatballs. Served with a generous, but not unmanageable among not of thick, chewy rice noodles.
He eschewed the bottle of sriracha, to experiment with additions of fresh green herbs, crunchy beansprouts, lime, and some chilli whose fire you couldn't have predicted from its tiny size.
We washed down our meals with a refreshing Beerlao, that paired well with the meal, and a fabulous and fresh-tasting mocktail of a Nojito, comprised of muddled lime & mint, homemade lemonade & soda, shaken & served over crushed ice, garnished with fresh mint.
Pho was decked out with modern and stylish decor, and the tables were well-spaced out, which is appreciated in post-Covid times.
The staff took time to explain what you can expect from the dishes you select and were friendly and attentive.
Overall, Pho made for an enjoyable dining experience.
The meal was complimentary.