Last week, myself and 2 of my friends were getting together for our annual Christmas food and drinks night in Manchester. As it was friggin’ freezing on this particular Friday night, we decided to head to Manchester’s Corn Exchange – a lovely hub of bars and restaurants close to the Selfridges and Victoria Station end of Manchester.
One of the restaurants I wanted to try for ages, which I hadn’t had chance to get round to reviewing for you all, was Pho – the Vietnamese Street Food eatery.
I love that although Pho is fairly popular now across the UK, it is still a family-ran business serving great value, healthy Vietnamese street food that is cooked fresh daily (no central kitchens!).
So neither of us are Vegan, however, one of us has been before and as you know, I like to review dining destinations in Manchester as party of my job. I have a lot of Vegan followers so I felt this would be a great Vegan Christmas menu to try out.
Pho have been serving up their Vegan Christmas Party menu throughout this December, giving Vegan’s a festive three course setup to enjoy. The vegan set menu is offered across six of Pho’s London restaurants plus Brighton, Cambridge, Guildford, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Reading.
As you can see, the table was laid out for us by the attentive Pho team, complete with some vietnamese style spiced rice crackers to nibble on, and festive crackers to pull!
My friends both turned up late due to traffic issues (this is what happens when you arrange Manchester as your Christmas meal location right in the heart of party season), so I think I got through the rice crackers all by myself. Boy, they were addictive!
I sipped on some Prosecco and browsed the three course menu, which offers the following:
Gỏi cuốn: fresh rice paper summer rolls with veggies, herbs, vermicelli & pickle (choice of peanut or soy ginger sauce)
Gỏi ngó sen: tangy lotus stems with green beans & sesame seeds
Chả giò: crispy spring rolls served with lettuce & herbs to wrap & dip
(choice of peanut or soy ginger sauce)
Rau muống xào: stir fried morning glory (water spinach) in garlic
Two of us went for the Cha Gio – which were so much more filling than I thought! The waiter explained how wrapping the spring roll in lettuce leaves and dipping in the sauce gives the best taste, and my word these were delicious. Crunch, rich in veg, a sweet peanut sauce, crispy batter…. mmmmmmm.
One of our friends went for the fresh rice paper Summer rolls and these were a much lighter choice. See the spring rolls are definitely the naughtier option – although packed with delicious crunchy Vietnamese style veggies, the batter is fairly thick. But these rice paper rolls are so much lighter and more of a healthy version, with just as much taste…
All mains comes with a selection of sharing side dishes: Wok-fried Chinese leaf in soy sauce, Green beans & sugar snaps in peanut dressing, Stir fried morning glory in garlic.
Phở: Vietnamese noodle soup
The classic Vietnamese dish. Healthy & delicious rice noodle soup served with fresh herbs.
Phở chay: tofu & button mushrooms in veggie broth ‘Spicy Green’: tofu, morning glory, green beans, pak choi, fresh lime & Thai basil in spicy veggie broth
‘Super Green’: morning glory, green beans, pak choi, fresh lime & Thai basil in veggie broth with garlic
Phở nấm rơm: enoki, shiitake & button mushrooms in veggie broth
Hot and spicy soups
Bún chay Huế: hot & spicy tofu & mushroom
Bún nấm rơm Huế: hot & spicy enoki, shiitake & button mushrooms, pak choi
Cơm Tấm: broken rice
Cơm tấm đặc biệt: tofu & veg rice bowl topped with wok-fried Chinese leaf, radish, cucumber & pickles, finished with peanuts & fresh chillies
Cà-ri: rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with tofu & mushrooms, topped with nuts & served with broken rice
Cơm tấm rang: aromatic, spicy wok-fried rice with shiitake mushrooms & Thai basil
Bún: vermicelli noodles with a wok-fried lemongrass & chilli topping, fresh herbs, beansprouts, veggie spring roll & peanuts Choice of: tofu & mushroom or veggie spring rolls
Phở Xào: wok fried noodles tofu & mushroom wok-fried noodles with lemongrass, chilli & Asian greens
Two of us went for the Cà-ri: the rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with tofu & mushrooms, topped with nuts & served with broken rice. It certainly had a Vietnamese kick to it, but it was creamy too, with the crunch texture of the smashed nuts on top.
It tasted very much like a traditional Vietnamese style curry, with soft pieces of Tofu which melted in the mouth. I really liked pairing this not only with the rice, but the wok fried Chinese leaf.
I have to say that for those who worry that Vegan meals don’t quite cut it in terms of options, this three course set menu will completely prove you wrong. The options are brilliant, with something for everyone, and you don’t loose out on size or flavour at all.
To put it into perspective, we filled ourselves up that much with the rice crackers, the spring rolls and summer rolls, the curry main and all the veggie sides, that by the time it came to pick dessert, we physically couldn’t!
The desserts include the Kem sorbet: delicious fresh fruit sorbet made with over 55% fruit. Choice of: mango or strawberry & basil, and the Chuối chiên: banana fritter with sorbet & fresh mint.
Two courses cost £14.50 and three courses at £18.50, which I feel is super dooper value for a festive Vietnamese meal.
Brilliant service, buzzing atmosphere and lovely traditional food. Would recommend to those with a Vegan lifestyle, and those without!