Happy World Vegan Month fellow vegan foodies! I was happy to celebrate World Vegan Day (November 1st) at the brand new Pho in Westgate with my boyfriend, and a huge celebration it turned out to be because Pho had invited us to try as many vegan dishes as we liked. Though we tried to be pretty conservative at first, we were persuaded to go all out by the lovely Donna who happily recommended us lots of her favourite dishes and made sure we had a fun and delicious evening.
I asked the waitress who took our drinks order for an allergen menu and she said they couldn’t provide me with one, which I thought was a bit unusual. I was confident when she pointed out which items were vegan that she knew what she was talking about, but at the same time I think it would be helpful for them to label their menu in the restaurant, especially as I checked online afterwards and they do have a separate vegan section. Anyway as it turned out we probably didn’t need to look at a menu as we were able to try almost all of the vegan food they had to offer!
Gỏi cuốn: These summer rolls, served on a bed of lettuce, were crunchy and fresh, with a decent punch from the coriander. The slight chew of the rice paper gave another element to the texture, but the star was definitely the ginger and soy dipping sauce. They looked so pretty too. I am much more of a spring roll girl but with this sauce I was very happy to devour my share of the generously sized starter.
Chả giò: The crispy spring rolls came served with lettuce leaves and a handful of mint to wrap them in. They were served with a delicious creamy peanut sauce. Peanut butter is one of my greatest loves so this was right up my street. It was quite sweet too, and when dipping the spring rolls in there were so many fantastic levels of flavour. Easily the nicest veggie spring rolls I’ve had at a chain restaurant.
Gỏi ngó sen: This was really refreshing, zingy, crunchy, and with little bursts of sesame in each mouthful, it was probably one of the nicest salads I’ve tried (I tend to steer clear of them in general at restaurants as they so often fall a bit flat). I’ve never eaten lotus stems before and I loved them. The dish was fragrant and quite spicy actually; I loved it, but Jamie wasn’t so keen.
Cà-ri: Having eaten so much already, it was pretty embarrassing when our mains and sides required three waitress to bring everything over. Jamie had chosen the tofu and vegetable curry. It was rich and creamy, coconutty, and had a little heat to it but it wasn’t super spicy. The meaty mushrooms and tofu made this a really substantial meal, with the added crunch of onion and pepper mixed in. It also had a crispy onion topping which was delicious. Jamie felt the ratio of sauce to rice wasn’t quite right but he does like to drown everything in sauce!
Phở chay: Of course I had to try the Pho, and I opted for the Pho chay with tofu and button mushrooms. It comes served with a side plate of herbs and chilli to add to the bowl as you please. I think I should have been a bit braver with adding the chilli as the salty veggie broth was a bit mild compared to all the other punchy flavours I’d been eating, but I was a bit hesitant to add them in case it went too much the wrong way. The tofu was deliciously flavoured having absorbed all the goodness from the soup. I was so full that I did only eat about half, and had the rest of it for lunch the next day (the portions are huge so actually this was perfect) and the broth tasted a bit more flavourful, perhaps as the herbs had had a bit more time to work their magic.
Phở Xào: Out of the three main courses we got to try, this was both of our favourites – and surprisingly hadn’t actually been on our original order (thanks Donna)! Again the ginger soy sauce was spot on, and the puffed tofu absorbed so much of the flavour once that was poured over dish. The textures were perfect, with the soft noodles, crunchy fresh veggies, and that slightly chewy tofu. Definitely recommend trying this one.
Đậu que: This side came with the same peanut dressing as the spring rolls, and as I’ve already mentioned this sauce is divine. There isn’t much to say about the green beans and sugar snaps as they are exactly as described: raw, crunchy, and tasty when dipped in the sauce, with the sprinkling of sesame seeds adding a little bitterness. Probably one of the less exciting sides we tried though.
Rau muống xào: This side was definitely the winner for the both of us. Maybe not one for a date early in the game if you don’t want to feel self-conscious, because the garlic really does pack a punch, but for that exact reason it is completely delicious. The morning glory (water spinach) was stir-fried to perfection with still a bit of bite. We took some leftovers home and tossed them into our own homemade stir-fry the next day, and it really worked wonders for the flavour. I could probably happily eat a massive plate of this on its own as a main in honesty.
Cải Thảo Xào: The chinese leaf had a chargrilled flavour and was succulent with the soy dressing. I really enjoyed it, but then I’m quite a typical vegan in that I love pretty much all veggies, whereas Jamie wasn’t so sure! It was a little greasy but I didn’t find it particularly off-putting, it just reminded me a bit more of things I’ve eaten from a takeaway before.
While we were waiting for the food, Donna treated us to a few cocktails. I hadn’t actually had a drink in about four years (not that I took a vow of sobriety or anything, I just don’t really enjoy drinking alcohol) and I did mention that I don’t drink, but I felt so guilty at the effort when the cocktails started to come out that I actually tried a bit of each – most people who know me will certainly be impressed that they managed to get me to do so! Obviously with that in mind I’m certainly not a cocktail connoisseur, but I did really enjoy what I tried, in fact, enough to take more than just the one sip. First up was a lemon and basil martini, made with Nếp Phú Lộc (clear rice spirit), a homemade lemonade, and mixed with basil. This was my favourite of the three cocktails I tried, it was sweet with a little sourness from the lemon, and very refreshing. Next up we were served a new gin-based cocktail which I can’t yet see on the menu. It was less sweet than the others and still quite refreshing, but as the main flavour was cucumber, I wasn’t as much of a fan. Lastly we were served Pho’s take on the mojito (Phojito, got to appreciate that),made again with the Nep Phu Loc, which was minty and delicious, and I had more than a little of this one too.
I really hate food waste which was why I didn’t want to order loads, but Donna had said all the food was cooked fresh and they were more than happy to box up whatever we didn’t eat to take home. She even offered to put what was left of our cocktails in a takeaway cup! So sweet, but I politely declined, knowing it would get thrown away at home anyway. The food however was put to good use for our lunches the next day. We were absolutely stuffed and couldn’t have managed pudding, but you’ll be happy to hear the banana fritters on the menu are suitable for vegans. There is a sorbet too, if you are so inclined. Having checked the prices I thought everything looked very reasonable, and the food was really great quality so I’ll happily visit here again as a paying customer!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary meal from Pho in celebration of World Vegan Day. My thoughts in this review are my own.