Last week, when the dreaded cold was hampering my ability to do anything, my husband had the most brilliant idea: “let’s go out and get some phò, it will do you good.” See, reader, that’s one of the many reasons I married him: he never underestimates the power of food to cheer me up, even when I am in sniffly, red-nosed hell.
The provider of this remedy was the amusingly named Mo Pho in Brockley. Until recently, most of my phò-eating was done in and around the Kingsland Road in Hoxton, bar, of course, the three weeks I spent in Vietnam. Finding Vietnamese food south of the river has been a long time coming, especially for days when a trip up the Overground is somewhat beyond our capabilities.
Mo Pho, a little canteen-style place just around the corner from Brockley Station, has been open for about a year. It’s more of a cafe than a restaurant, with a menu consisting largely of the popular noodle-based items and omitting some of the more unusual dishes you would expect to see on the enormous menus uptown. That being said, if it is the classics you are after, it is perfect. Plus, they have a BYOB policy, which meant that I could take along the most medicinal and cold-busting of all drinks: the prosecco I had in the fridge.
We ordered classic starters of chagrilled quail with lemongrass and pork belly summer rolls. The quail, a dish I almost always order, was barbecued to crispy perfection and had a strong flavour of chilli and lemongrass, but I missed the sweetness of the honey that is often added to the marinade elsewhere. The dip that accompanied the quail, however, spiked with chilli and sesame, was one of the best I have ever tasted. The pork belly summer rolls were excellent and generously sized but were missing the fresh coriander and mint that characterises them, so therefore lacked that vital freshness.
The phò came, as phò should, in enormous steaming bowls with plates of beansprouts and chilli for throwing in afterwards. We ordered the rare beef pho, which arrived at the table with slithers of barely cooked beef which later browned in the heat of the broth. The broth itself was deep in flavour and, again, one of the best I’ve had, and the noodles suitably slippery and plentiful. My only small gripe was that the coriander was already stirred into the phò before coming to the table, and subsequently there was none to add. For me, it was not quite enough and I would have preferred to add it myself. Similarly, a dislike of coriander is fairly common and I know many who choose to leave it out entirely.
Despite a few small snags, I enjoyed my meal at Mo Pho enormously. The service was good and we had two courses for less than £15 per head, including the corkage of our drinks. And my husband was right about the phò; at least it revived me enough to manage a couple of G&Ts in The Brockley Barge afterwards.
Mo Pho, 10 Coulgate Street, London SE4 2RW.