Don’t get pho-mo, head on down to the Corn Exchange for some noodle goodness
Since my first foray into the world of Pho down a dodgy alleyway in Hanoi, I have been hooked. This Vietnamese dish of rice noodle soup with fresh herbs and tender meat quickly became one of my favourites. Thus, when the posters advertising the new Pho restaurant in Manchester caught my eye, I knew where my next lunch date would take place.
On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, we checked out the newest addition to the Pho chain. One of a variety of eateries making themselves home in the recently refurbished Corn Exchange, Pho spans an impressive three floors of dark, wooden-clad walls and mood lighting. The restaurant is a family-run business with several locations focusing on providing authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
We opted to be seated at the window bench in order to ogle the passers-by, and because it was far too cold to sit outside. The mishmash of high chairs and sofa seats inside made a nice change from the usual school canteen-style benches favoured by similar restaurants.
It didn’t take long to order the food, thanks to the minimalist menu, which, unsurprisingly, comprised mainly Pho, but with a good selection of starters including gems like summer rolls and savoury crepes. We decided on pork crispy spring rolls followed by the Pho with beef brisket. The main wasn’t a bad price, and so we decided to upgrade to steak, which brought the dish to a reasonable £8.50 (who wouldn’t, especially with the 15 per cent student discount available).
After a brief wait, our spring rolls arrived. Deliciously crisp with just enough to share, these were accompanied by either a creamy peanut or a garlic and chilli (‘nước chấm’) dip. Ten minutes later, we were greeted by our huge bowls of aromatic noodle soup, topped with an appetising herb plate of mint, lemongrass, lime, chilli and coriander. The melt-in-the-mouth meat was coupled with the perfect amount of spice; although there were some pungent chilli and garlic oils provided for those more with a greater disposition towards spice. We ended the meal with the banana fritters. Covered in the lightest of batters, with sesame seeds and a side of coconut ice cream, these were possibly the best I have ever had.
Overall, we found Pho to be a viable contender on the competitive Manchester Asian food scene, with a relaxed, contemporary atmosphere thanks to the chatty staff and ambient playlist. The meal was very reasonably priced, at under £15 for a main with shared starter and dessert. If we lived closer, we would definitely take advantage of the takeaway ‘Pho to Go’ option, which comes served with the ingredients in separate containers to keep them fresh on the journey. I already have my eye on the com tam curry for next time!
The Corn Exchange,
37 Hanging Ditch,