My last post was a glowing review for a restaurant chain called Pho in glorious Brighton . Seriously, it was the most laid back, stress free meal I've had out since becoming a coeliac. With that experience in mind, when my (now) future In-Laws came visiting from abroad, it seemed an obvious choice to go to a London branch of Pho for the same experience. Let me just state this now, if you or anyone you are dining with is a coeliac, DO NOT go anywhere near this place!
The beauty of discovering Pho was that a large portion of the menu was naturally gluten free, the serving staff in the Brighton branch explained that it was only the Banana Fritters and Prawn Crackers that weren't suitable. This was confirmed both over the phone and when we got there.
It made sense, the stocks were made the old fashioned way from bones, shells and vegetables. The noodles were all rice based. What a dream! On arrival at Pho Wardour Street, we were given identical menus as in Brighton and so I knew immediately what I was having. My other half had called the night before just to double check that everything apart from the two known dishes were gluten free and sure enough, just the same as Brighton as was expected.
On arrival I did the usual double check again and all was fine, an extensive naturally gluten free menu. We ordered our food but when my Bun Tom Hue arrived it looked different to how it had in Brighton. Me and my other half just looked at each other because he saw it too.
What happened for the next 15 minutes was like something from a bad comedy show for non coeliacs, for me it was a terrifying horror trailer.
I asked the waitress to double check with the chef that my Bun Tom Hue was indeed gluten free. I just had that feeling, that instinct that says 'don't touch it, it will hurt you'. Sure enough the waitress, who I must say was helpful throughout my ordeal, came back and said "don't eat it, it does have gluten in it". I was horrified and shocked, why did this basic prawn soup have gluten in it? All it consisted of was vegetable stock, prawns, bean sprouts, rice noodles and some herbs and chili.
I was asked if the chef could make me something else, the options? Two bloody salads, one of which had steak in it and I don't eat red meat. Reluctantly I said yes to a pork version. I only said it so that everyone else could get on with their meal in peace. I shouldn't have bothered.
No sooner had this boring bowl of stuff arrived at the table (at which point I knew I wasn't going to eat it anyway) the original waitress who had dealt with the first dish comes running over shouting "DON'T EAT THAT!!!!" and snatches the bowl away from the table. By now I had my head in my hands and was just so thankful that everyone in our group was so understanding about the drama. It turned out that some topping that had been put on the salad contained gluten. Personally, I don't think it was just that either, the pork was processed so who knows what was in that crap!
Despite my protests the original waitress brings me another bowl of salad that is "definitely gluten free". No way, you're kidding me right? Like I was going to eat anything from that place. The bowl was promptly pushed to the middle of the table and I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be eating anything outside of home that night.
What's the conclusion to all this? The chef at Pho Wardour Street is a lazy F***** who doesn't make his own stocks. That's the only reason I can think of. As for the salad topping and the pork, who knows, but they certainly don't cook like or use the same ingredients as the great kitchen in the Brighton branch does.
I stand by my last post, Pho Brighton was gorgeous, Pho Wardour Street however should be avoided at all costs. As a coeliac, if you make it out of there without being glutened, I'd be highly surprised.