Lots has been written recently about the influx of new restaurants in Reading. Its kind of becoming a little bit of a dining hotspot with independents and chains both nabbing their spaces and Pho Reading is the most recent addition. In my opinion, there’s room for everyone and it’s an individuals choice about where they eat, the more the merrier, if you ask me.
Last Friday evening I was invited over to Pho with my family to give their restaurant a try. At the end of a very long week, I was tired and looking forward to kicking off the weekend with some good hearty food. Maybe throwing a cocktail or two in there if I got lucky.
I prefer restaurants where the menus are to the point, but with variation, and I love it when I’m torn on what to choose as it means I have an excuse to order more, or better still persuade whom I’m dining with to order something I can taste – cheeky! 😉 Honest Burger is just across the road from Pho, so it’s going to make my dining choices quite tricky!
Pho Reading is located on King Street, a quick walk from both The Oracle Shopping Centre or just a few minutes from the train station. Food-wise, it’s a Vietnamese street food chain with an emphasis placed on its main dish – Pho (pronounced Fuh) – an aromatic rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please with varying vegetables, tofu meats or fish if you prefer.
Strangely we didn’t all choose the Pho, we instead ordered bravely and tried things we wouldn’t usually go for. Two of us being vegetarian and two being carnivores meant there was a lot of food on the table and we created our own kind of little feast!
Our children, hormone mood dependent, are pretty good at eating out. We’ve trained them well 😉 They love their veg, they love fresh food and can instantly spot when a restaurant is going to suit us and if we’ll return or not. They both unanimously gave Pho a big thumbs up. Why? In their words they enjoyed the food, they loved the music and the atmosphere but overall they felt like they fitted in. I’ve been asked twice since if my son can come back with his friends.
To help me choose, I sipped away on a Rose Apple Bellini which is basically Prosecco with a splash of Táo Mèo. Nice. So far, so good.
To begin I had the Gỏi cuốn, fresh rice paper summer rolls with herbs, vermicelli & pickle. The rice paper is super light, almost see-through and I found this dish surprisingly filling. Fresh, crunchy, satisfying with a delicious sweet/sour/zingy taste that will quickly become your new obsession.
We had some peanut sauce – you MUST get this if you go. Pure heaven in a bowl.
I also tried the Bánh xèo and again, as it was a generous portion this was also filling and the leaves on the side, which I think are called Perilla, were AMAZING! They tasted so different to anything else I’ve eaten and added such a unique taste to the dish.
I was starting to worry I may not make it to dessert!
Oh, and don’t worry about trying to actually pronounce the dish names. By all means give them a go, for the laugh if anything, but pointing at the menu is also accepted and not frowned upon 😉
Coby ate the Nem nướng. Homemade pork & lemongrass meatballs with lettuce & herbs to wrap & dip. He listened to the waiter and wrapped each meatball in a lettuce leaf before dipping and eating. Great piece of advice…he’d have licked his plate clean if he could have gotten away with it.
Lucy similarly enjoyed the crispy chicken wings served with sriracha.
Moving on to mains I ate the Phở Xào, which is basically wok-fried flat rice noodles with lemongrass, chilli and Asian greens served with peanuts & nước chấm. I could eat this every single day of my life, it was delicious. I also had a portion of crispy hot vegetable spring rolls on the side.
Other dishes at our table included the Bun noodles with more veggie spring rolls. The noodles are served at room temperature which concerned me a tad as I really like my food hot, but it was fine and I can’t actually remember thinking or noticing they weren’t hot enough. The Bun noodle dishes are all served with a pour-over side sauce to stir in yourself.
We had more peanut sauce. Obviously.
Phở tái lăn, flash-fried steak with garlic was slurped up by Coby.
The Pho dishes all come with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please. The addition of these herbs along with the table condiments is an essential part of eating phở and adds another dimension to the dish – use the chilli paste for a kick, fish sauce for extra saltiness, garlic vinegar for sourness. Don’t hold back. Be brave.
I love healthy food and if you’re anything like me then you’ll always be on the hunt for delicious food that is good for you but doesn’t taste like it. Dishes that are so satisfying that you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Food is meant to be enjoyed, if it just so happens to be amazingly good for you…well then all the better.
The only piece of criticism I could give… more napkins were needed!
Oh, and I did make it to dessert. With one other contender. We enjoyed the banana fritters and passionfruit cheesecake just as much as the rest of the food.
Go on a date, with family or with friends. The food is light enough to eat before a girls night out too. The music will surely help with getting you in the party spirit. Perfect for meat-eaters, exceptional for gluten-free diets, vegetarians and vegans – how are you going to satay away?