Pho, Grand Central

Hi-Pho, hi-Pho, it’s off to lunch we go. It’s actually more of a fuh than a foe, but you get the picture – we’ve been lunching at Pho.

Having skirted around the fragrant Vietnamese eaterie for a few months (only because it’s so blinking busy you understand!) we were determined to give it a whirl, so we took a lunch so early it was almost brunch and beat the crowds that were out in force by 1pm. Street food’s the thing in a distinctly relaxed atmosphere with plenty of buzz created by the station below. We took a steer from the helpful army of staff who talked us through menu while we sipped cold Saigon beer. A dipping, rolling and sharing vibe going on with the starters appealed, so we tucked into crispy pork spring rolls served with lettuce, mint and peanut sauce. The idea being that you wrap the spring roll in lettuce with a mint leaf and dip. It was bursting with herb packed meatiness and the right amount of heat with contrasting cool lettuce and mint. The addition of the rich peanut sauce meant it was seriously moreish stuff.

The restaurant’s namesake and signature dish Pho was next up. A fragrant broth with noodles and shredded beef served in a gigantic bowl and a plate of intriguing garnishes to add included Thai basil, red chilli, bamboo shoots and more mint. As well as being flavourful the broth felt nourishing in that healer of all ills, homemade chicken soup sort of way. Condiments on the table added another dimension with a splosh of fish sauce taking it to another level. It was a bit messy to eat, but that says more about me being terribly British than the quality of the food. My friend enjoyed the more familiar dish of Ca-ri with beef brisket. Very similar in flavour to a Thai massaman it was rich, warming, spicy, creamy and packed a punch on lots of levels. We left feeling chipper having had a break from the normal sort of office lunch understanding why the place is often packed. Hands up who doesn’t want a quick, reasonably priced punchy lunch with a decent cold beer in a lively atmosphere? Just go early. We reckon pre-12.30pm and you’re good.

PHO Grand Central, Stephenson Place, Birmingham B2 4XJ. Tel: 0121 392 8915 www.phocafe.co.uk