This is definitely the most popular Pho spot in Melbourne: like every other pho destination from here to the Mekong delta, it has patrons spilling from the doors and knocking each other around with their elbows trying to get first dibs for the next free table… but the thing that sets it apart is that it has the reputation for the best pho around. Even the cute jibe on the front window about Bill Clinton eating there is a hint to its popularity: it’s a Melbourne institution.
So how does it rate?
I went of a lunchtime with my beautiful mate H (who as of this week no longer works with us, so we’ll have to book her in advance for a lunchtime pho trip when she’s back in the country) and got spring rolls and the usual, that is, rare beef pho. The original and the best. The spring rolls come out hot and crispy, just the way they should be.
The pho is gloriously hot and the beef is tasty (not chewy, there’s nothing worse), with a serve of condiments filled with mint and beanshoots and hot chilli to make the dish really sing. But before I’ve gone and piled them all in there, I took an exploratory sip of the broth….aaaand felt a little let down. It was pretty bland and a bit watery, no delicious juices from the kitchen.
If you haven’t tried Mekong, I’d suggest you do it, it’s worth taking a bit of a detour to get some good pho. However, you can’t go with the expectation of a recreating the experience of Vietnam in a bowl. Personally, I prefer MVNH, just a couple of doors up Swanston Street – less packed, the freshest ingredients and just as good value for money. Of course, the service is just as bad ;)
Value for money: 9.5/10
Score (food is weighted double): 77%