Jonathan Schofield enjoys big bowls, fiery buns and revelatory rolls
Honestly, I can see nothing funny about the name of this restaurant, Pho Cue. So I will not be telling any jokes about it or making witticisms and sly asides. No, I will be mature, sober and just tell it as it is: three qualities not always evident in food reviewers, certainly not the middle one.
I really do like this new Vietnamese place on Faulkner Street. The interior is plain, spare almost, with a feature corner of artificial greenery climbing the wall. That adds some colour but much more welcome is the colour that comes with the food.
Those broths are so big you can be in there for an hour finishing them off
The location is in the basement of the former Great Wall restaurant. The smiles you receive as you enter are genuine and make you feel immediately comfortable. The family back story to this place is remarkable, involving the trauma of setting forth to escape Vietnam in a dingy. People of a certain age will remember the Vietnamese Boat People. Read more about the heroic endeavours of this particular family here .
Cue Tran was two or three months old in that boat. Now he is the proud owner of this fine little business. Pho is the famous Vietnamese noodle broth and is pronounced 'fer.' The menu is simple but really interesting. I went twice in quick succession.
I drank a Vietnamese brew called Hanoi Beer of barley, hops, yeast and rice and it's chunky and carries a big flavour. Works well with the food. There are only two choices of Vietnamese beer currently, the wine has yet to arrive.
The spring rolls (£4.50) are a little revelation with a crunchy rice paper shell that breaks and flakes beautifully. I had my rolls filled with roast pork and wolfed them down.
The beef pho (£8.80) was similarly gorgeous but also vast, bulked up by flat rice noodles. All the standards were there with spring onions, beansprouts, chilli to add. The lashings upon lashings of coriander made the dish so aromatic and floaty I kept having to climb on my seat to retrieve it from close to the ceiling.
A subsequent fiery version called a ‘bun’ (£9) came with roast duck as my choice and was equally superb. Cue’s uncle is the chef and he seems to combine an incredible delicacy in the stock with strength too. In our previous report there was a cracking, and very frank, paragraph about what a modern restaurateur has to think about.
“If I leave it to (my uncle), he’ll be happy to just stick it in a bowl, as long as it tastes great and it’s hearty,” Cue Tran told us. “I say to him, but I can’t take an Instagram photo though can I? I know it tastes good - it tastes like home. It’s not just my name above the restaurant but the legacy of my family. As long as the methods are there then you bring it up to date and make it look Instagram-worthy, you’ve got a winner.”
I suggest people get down to Pho Cue and give it a go. It’s very conscientious about COVID-19 social distancing precautions, the food is unpretentious, as fresh as a daisy, and those broths are so big you can be in there for an hour finishing them off. Apparently a lobster pho is on the way which sounds like a must. This was such a comfortable and easy-going experience.
Indeed I felt so comfortable, I called a friend and said: “Come and join me for lunch, I’ve found a great new restaurant on Faulkner Street in Chinatown?”
He said: “That’s great, what’s it called?”
“Pho Cue,” I said with a certain degree of theatricality.
“There’s no need for that,” he retorted and slammed the phone down.
(Listen there was no way I was going to last through the whole review being mature, sober, while just telling it as it is. Inside every adult male, as we all know, is a giggling boy who loves rude words. As for needing to be Instagrammable dear Mr Cue Tran, that name above the door really hits the mark).
Pho Cue, 52a Faulkner Street, Manchester, M1 4FH
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Spring rolls 7, pho 7.5, bun 7.5
Smiles and laughter
Easy-going and pleasant