It feels like these few weeks on the run up to Christmas are a never ending cycle of mulled wine, cocktails and dining out. I have to admit that I have been thoroughly enjoying being social and spending time with my loved ones over cuisines from around the world. I recently headed to Vietnam without having to pack my passport, and headed to The Corn Exchange in Manchester to try the new vegan Christmas menu at Pho.
I love The Corn Exchange. Not only is the building exquisite but it’s home to some of my most loved restaurants such as Wahaca, Vapiano and Mowgli. It also houses establishements like The Cosy Club, Banyan and Cabana as well as two independent restaurants; Salvis and Alston Bar & Beef. On the run up to Christmas, each restaurant within The Corn Exchange has an limited run Christmas menu with the each restaurant spinning their own little twist on Christmas classics.
I was so excited to head to Pho to try the Christmas menu, and see the options available on the vegan menu. The menu’s did not disappoint. We started off the evening with the veggie rice crackers and sweet chilli dipping sauce and a bottle of Saigon beer whilst the conversation flowed. We were served by Shane, who not only was extremely attentive but made us both comfortable and welcomed into Pho. He was knowledgeable on the menu and gave his recommendations to which we chose from the menu.
The starters were both from the vegan menu, and we went for the Goi Cuon; rice paper rolls packed with vermicelli, pickle, veggies and herbs as well as Cha Gio, the crispy spring rolls. Served with two dipping sauces, the peanut satay sauce tasted incredible. A smooth and creamy sauce that could have been mistaken for a thinner peanut butter but packed with so much flavour. The soy ginger sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the rice paper rolls and the tartness of the soy and ginger perfectly balanced the herbs and veg in the rolls. From the two, the rice paper rolls were my favourite as they were so light and fresh with the most incredible flavours. It really goes to show that you don’t need meat in ever dish for flavour.
When it came to the main course, I chose from the standard menu. Unfortunately I am not a fan of mushrooms nor of tofu and the majority of the vegan dishes did contain these two ingredients. This is one of the things that does bother me if I was to cut meat from my diet as I cannot stomach the two main substitutes. I will persevere with the tofu but not the mushrooms. For main, I went for my favorite dish Pho Tai Lan; a rice noodle soup served with flash fry steak and garlic accompanied by a herb plate to add further taste and flavour. Jamie chose the Pho Xao; wok fried noodles with chicken and shrimp and a healthy helping of chilli.
I am definitely a creature of habit and the Pho Tai Lan has been ordered many a time by myself. I love the broth, the tenderness of the flash fried steak and the addition of garlic. I add in a squeeze of lime for tartness, some chilli for the heat and a tiny splash of fish sauce to bring out the flavour. It’s a tried and tested recipe and I simply cannot put into words at just how comforting and warming this pho is. It’s like a giant hug in a bowl and it tastes wonderful too. From the silence between myself and Jamie whilst we ate, I think he also liked his dish. On the side, crunchy green beans with a satay sauce and a plate of pak choi. I had been craving green veg and this hit the spot.
No matter how full you are, there is always room for dessert and the banana fritters with sorbet from the vegan menu had to be the best choice. The batter on the bananas was light and didn’t lie heavily on my stomach after so much food, whilst the sorbet was a great palette cleanser. I chose the strawberry basil whilst Jamie went for classic mango. Sharp, fruity and fresh, it was just beautiful.
What I love about Pho is that each dish is so fresh and feels like you are eating a healthy meal. When it does come to the Christmas run up and you are eating more food, tucking into more cakes and sweets and generally not looking after your consumption, I think places like Pho deserve a little pat on the back for not having insanely luxe dishes that are a lot better for my ever expanding waistline.
If you are heading into Manchester this week, make sure you pop into The Corn Exchange to experience the Christmas menus. They are all available til the 24th December and definitely worth checking out.
*My meal was provided FOC but, as always, my opinions and views are my own.This post may contain PR samples that have been sent to me for consideration for review however all my opinions will be my own. The links in the post my be affiliate links which will earn a small amount of commission should you shop my recommendations.