The bitter cold of the winter months is for me, somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s the season for wool suits, long overcoats, and all the best aspects of formal attire. On the other hand, I feel like setting fire to myself every time I step outside. Indeed, as the harsh chill sweeps into our lives, we all begin to seek refuge in any form of warmth that we can find, and for many of us, that warmth lies in hearty pies and comforting fruit crumbles. But what of the humble Vietnamese Pho?
This wholesome broth – a national dish and symbol of Vietnam, is everything you could want and need in winter, and keen readers may recall the recipe we posted earlier this year. But, when you’re freezing to death in central London, the prospect of gathering beef, bones and stock ingredients and cooking for two hours isn’t particularly appealing, nor a practical thing to do. Enter the House of Ho – one of just a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in London that cater to the halal diner. Determined to beat the chill, Steak and I waddled over to defrost our insides.
Greedy readers will be delighted to hear that the menu is broader than the width of Vietnam itself, and whilst it is only the chicken that is halal, there are plenty of pescatarian and vegetarian options to fuel one’s indecisiveness. We began with a portion of glazed chicken wings, which, upon first glance, raised a little concern – on account of them being roughly the same size as my dwarfed companion. Fortunately, the crispy skin and the tender chicken carried a strong, sharp, smokey sweetness, which packed the right amount of punch to satisfy my palate. Steak however, found them to be a little overbearing, and wanted a bit more of a spicy kick to cut through them.
Glazed chicken wings (£7.50)
We also ordered a basket of steamed king prawn and chive dumplings, which happens to be something of a guilt-free favourite of ours. Texturally, the soft dumpling casing was simply flawless, and as the cooked prawn filling melted in the mouth, it was contrasted by the pleasant, earthy crunch of the chives.
King prawn and chive dumplings (£7) *Recommended*
Needless to say, wherever there is popcorn shrimp, there is me furiously pointing my finger at the menu. “THIS ONE.” To our delight, the popcorn shrimp possessed a delicate and crispy outer texture, which was complemented by the sharp, tangy sweetness of the rich, creamy sauce.
Popcorn shrimp (£13) *Recommended*
Our final small plate of the evening was the king crab, prawn, and creme fraiche croquettes, which surprisingly, turned out to be far more exciting than I expected. Texturally, we encountered a fantastic balance between the soft, yet crispy breading, the thick crab/prawn filling, and the gooey creme fraiche that oozed through it. The combination of these components resulted in a rich savoury touch, and a very subtle tang, both of which infiltrated the tastebuds simultaneously. For some reason, Steak wasn’t particularly blown away by them, and so, after rebounding one off of her head, I proceeded to pretty much devour them single-handedly.
King Crab, Prawn and Creme Fraiche croquettes (£9.50) *Recommended*
By this point, our stomachs were fairly satisfied, but we were pretty confident that we had room to share a small bowl of chicken pho. As luck would have it, the chicken pho that arrived was absolutely huge, and was rivalled only by the size of my forehead. (For the many readers who have never met me, my forehead is roughly the size of planet Jupiter). As we dived in with our chopsticks and soup ladles, we encountered an assortment of soft, thick, noodles and tender, but bland chicken, which was immersed in a fairly thin and weak broth. Needless to say, this was rather disappointing, and a heavier dose of seasoning and stock could certainly have brought forth a richer and more concentrated flavour. Despite this, it could somewhat be revived with the selection of soy, chilli and fish sauce that was served alongside it, and at the very least, it did well to warm our insides.
Chicken Pho (£9.50)
Value For Money: 3/5
Across the menu, small plates range from £6 to £15 – as do sushi and sashimi plates, whilst rolls and dumplings cost around £7, large plates between £10 to £15, and desserts around £5 to £10. Our own bill amounted to approximately £52 including service – (£26 each), which was within expectations for a central London establishment. That said, we still felt that some of the prices were a little bit steep, and whilst overall, the House of Ho is not an extortionate dining experience, it’s certainly not an inexpensive one either.
When it comes to service, the team at House of Ho do well to live up to the reputation of Vietnamese hospitality. Staff members are exceptionally polite and welcoming, and work both efficiently and attentively to ensure that all goes smoothly.
This pleasant mannerism is also reflected within the restaurant itself, which is small, neat, and smart. A selection of emerald green seats and marble tables occupy the main dining area, and the entire decor is comparable to the styling of a chic French bistro. The restaurant can be found a short five to ten minute walk away from either Tottenham Court Road or Goodge Street stations, and public transport is advised.
For the Muslim diner, it has long been the case that the best place to enjoy halal Vietnamese cuisine is in fact, at home – given the relative scarcity of halal Vietnamese restaurants both in London and in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the House of Ho hasn’t really changed the situation to a great degree – given the limited range of halal options, a fair amount of room for improvement, and the fact that they seem to border more on the verge of Pan-Asianism than being an authentic Vietnamese fare. That said, the diversity of their menu is something of a positive, and should you find yourself hungry in Fitzrovia, and unwilling to walk down to Chi Kitchen or spend a bit more at Cocochan, the House of Ho would certainly be worth popping into.
- Only the chicken is halal. (Stored and cooked separately).
- Alcohol is served on the premises
The House of Ho
Address: 1 Percy Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1DB
Telephone: 0207 323 9130