You all know that it’s been a battle of wills at times with regards to my son and his eating habits. But aged eight, I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel and slowly but surely he’s trying different foods. Dining out is certainly a lot less stressful than it was a couple of years ago. The opening of the new Westgate centre in Oxford has brought with it a range of new eateries and recently we got to try out Vietnamese family dining at Pho in Oxford.
I’ve travelled a bit over the years and have tried all sorts of different cuisine but somehow I’ve never actually tried Vietnamese food. I was excited to hear that Pho had arrived in Oxford, but would it be a disaster to take my fairly fussy eight year old with me?
The restaurant can be found on the rooftop terrace of Westgate, and we had actually looked at the menu on a trip to the centre fairly recently and I thought it might work for us. So when we were invited to sample Vietnamese family dining at Pho in Oxford I decided we’d give it a try and see how it would work out. On a nicer day we might even have sat outside, but on a wet April afternoon, inside dining was the way forward.
The restaurant has plenty of seating, with tables, booths and high stools for more of a bar eating experience. There’s a separate children’s menu, which doubles up as a colouring sheet, and crayons were available for budding artists to enjoy.
We had a great waitress who talked us through the menu, giving us her recommendations and making my son feel totally at ease. We were asked straight away if any of us had an allergy issues so that we could be talked through the various options if needed. I think that’s probably the first time ever that we’ve been asked up front which was nice to see.
Pho is actually the name of the national Vietnamese dish, a noodle soup served with a side dish of fresh herbs and chillies. It was clear that I was going to have to investigate that further, but my son won’t eat soup at all so I knew we’d have to look at something different for him.
Children can have a main meal with a drink for £5.50, with ice cream or a banana fritter for an extra £1, or apple or banana for 50p.
We had some prawn crackers on the table for a family appetizer, served with sweet chilli dipping sauce, which my son is familiar with, so that helped to set him at ease.
My son opted for the Pork and Lemongrass Meatball skewers served with prawn crackers, peanut sauce and sweet chilli sauce for dipping. There are also noodle dishes, Pho soup and rice dishes available as options.
He has never tried using chop sticks before but he was so excited when our waitress brought him a junior set to try out.
The smile on his face says it all, he loved the meatballs, the lemongrass wasn’t at all overpowering and they got a big thumbs up from him. He even ate the lettuce, he never eats lettuce. Two amazed parents looked on with smiles on our faces. In hindsight it would have been nice if the dish had come with a little bowl of rice or plain noodles for older children, as he’d need a little more to fill him up really. But he loved what he was given.
For starters my OH opted for the Goi cuon veggie rice paper spring rolls filled with herbs, vermicelli and pickle along side a peanut dipping sauce. These are also provided with a chicken or prawn filling. He liked them so much I didn’t even get a look in to try one. They must have been good, our waitress suggested he also try them with a splash of Hoisin sauce, which was a big hit.
I love squid, so wanted to try the Muc Chien Gion, tender fried baby squid which is served with a salt, pepper and lime dip (you squeeze the lime yourself, so you can moderate the flavour combination).
The squid was perfectly cooked, beautifully tender and the dipping sauce really lifted the taste. A good start.
The idea of having soup as a main meal thoroughly intrigued me and in the end we decided we’d share a Pho Bo Combo with steak, brisket and meatballs as well as trying the Ca-ri Vietnamese curry. We opted for this served with chicken and it comes with mushrooms, vegetables and broken rice.
My son thought it was hilarious when the waitress provided us with bibs for the soup, she clearly knows my husband well. But in seriousness they are a genuinely good idea.
As I mentioned earlier, the Pho soup comes with a side plate of herbs and chillies, so you can flavour your personally soup. This worked particularly well with my husband and I sharing our soup, he likes everything fairly mild, whilst I’m all for a chilli kick.
The brisket, steak and meatballs were beautifully tender, I might not have been able to persuade my son to try the soup, but he did have one of the meatballs. Clearly they were a big hit with him. The soup is also full of noodles which you can’t really see in my photos, hence why the bibs come into their own. I’m used to using chopsticks, but my husband has never got to grips with them very well, so the bib was handy.
As much as we both enjoyed the noodle soup, we both agreed that the highlight of the meal for us was the Ca-ri Chicken curry.
It was devine, served in a rich sauce, it was full of flavour and was so smooth on the palate. I could happily have eaten the whole plate without sharing and will definitely be ordering that again in the future. We were still talking about that curry a few days later.
My fussy son was very happy to discover he could have vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Whilst his Dad tried the Banh so-co-la truffle chocolate truffle slab served with ice cream, normally green tea ice cream but he asked for coconut instead.
I was totally sold on the Banh pho mai chanh day Passionfruit cheesecake.
Three happy diners, enjoying our Vietnamese family dining at Pho in Oxford. We all really enjoyed the experience, I couldn’t fault the food or service and I know we will be visiting again For more information about Pho, the full menu and location information please pop over to their website.
disclosure: we were given a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest review