Today I had decided to take the Delightful Dining Companion (DDC) to lunch, she’s recently returned from holiday in Australia and she was sorely missed during her absence (though nobody tell her that.) She works in Fitzrovia and I’m currently squatting in my friend’s office in Soho whilst figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life.
The problem is that we’ve been out for lunch so many times in the local area that nowhere struck me as particularly compelling. That is until the DDC suggested the House of Ho, and I suddenly thought why not.
So why am I reviewing a West End eatery. Well even if we live in an SW post code, many of us still work in central London and particularly in the area from Oxford Circus to Holborn. Many of us also do have business lunches, and for the rest of us it’s always nice to know where you can potentially dine cheaply and well when out and about in town.
The House of Ho (HoH as I shall refer to it from now on,) was until recently Bam Bou, a once glittering ‘sleb hangout from the 90’s, which had until recently eked out an existence as one of the rather less dazzling stars in the Le Caprice group of restaurants. Myself and the DDC had dined there a couple of times previously and whilst there was nothing wrong with it, in fact the food was pretty good, there was always a tired feeling about the place, not that the best years were behind it, but that they were quite some way behind it.
HoH promises modern Vietnamese cuisine in the heart of London, the building itself is an old Georgian townhouse like many you’ll find in Soho & Fitzrovia. The décor though has been done well, and where Bam Bou boosted rather a lot of green plastic plants in order to look a bit like an artificial jungle or an above ground version of the rainforest café, HoH has gone a bit more art deco and looks a bit like the early Shanghai nightclub scenes from ‘Indiana Jones and the temple of doom,’ divide across several different floors.
HoH has a fairly select menu, bits of which have been hived off to make the quick lunch special. All of the dishes I think are available on the evening menu at the same rate, but are accompanied by a choice of more pricey and descriptive offerings (waygu beef and genuine Vietnamese fish for example.)
This being Charlotte Street (or near enough,) the other diners seemed to be the obligatory media types, living up to the stereotype so closely that about the only thing absent was a plethora of air kissing. The DDC works in recruitment and I joked that probably one of the best ways of gaining business would be to sponsor the Charlotte Street section of OpenTable or at least drop business cards everywhere.
We started with a selection of dumplings, seabass, prawn and scallop. These were hands down better than anything the old Bam Bou used to push out. Light and flavoursome, these were a treat and I remember thinking it would have been nice to order some more.
For the main course I continued with the seafood theme going for the seafood fried noodles, whilst the DDC had a chicken pho. I was slightly disappointed in the noodles not that at £8 they weren’t great value for what was actually quite a bit of good quality seafood but fried noodles do tend to taste somewhat similar whether they’re in the form of a chow mein from the local takeaway or in gourmet setting like they were here.
The DDC declared her chicken pho also to be very tasty and from where I was sitting it looked to be of good quality. The only fault here was one that is common to the dish, and many people might not consider this an issue, in that there was perhaps too much.
The bill when it arrived was perhaps a bit of a shock. The individual dishes had been very reasonably priced, the pho and the noodles both in the £8-£10 range. Where I had gone wrong was in the choice of drinks. A bottle of sparkling water was a rather pricey £5.50, a beer was a rather more reasonable £5.25, so when the service charge was added the bill came to a less budget conscious total of £59.
I would recommend HoH though, if on business it’s a great alternative to the more familiar restaurants of Charlotte Street and also far less pricey than its peer ‘Roka’ just down the road. It has more individuality than Gaucho and the food is better than most on the street.
If you’re paying out of your own money I’d still recommend it as if you just go for tap water this almost makes it into the category of bargain eats, and certainly one of the better deals that you’ll get in such surroundings.
So that’s it from me, a conditional thumbs up, just be careful before rampaging through the drinks menu. So till next time when I’ll be back on more familiar territory in south west London.
1 Percy St,