All the pandas...
...really miss Bam Bou!
Having eaten twice in the now titled Ho Modern Vietnamese, I was anxious to try the new flagship from Bobby Chinn. Accompanied by a strict vegetarian, it always makes life difficult in a restaurant with plates designed for sharing, but as luck would have it, we took advantage of the Square Meal set menu deal (£25 per head), which had a full vegetarian option and the rest for me.
The service is still undergoing teething troubles, no one offered to take our coats and they remained on the backs of our chairs throughout, the waitress seemed a little nervous and seemed to forget the basics such as bring a cocktail menu and the maitre d' (? Maybe head waiter) was a little over zealous. That being said, they did their best to be charming and their hearts were in the right place.
The set menu offered 3 starters and a main each. The steamed seafood dumpling was juicy and yielding, full of flavour, the pork vermicelli salad was incredibly tasty with lots of raw fresh vegetables to provide an interesting texture contrast to the pork and the prawn crispy spring roll was perfect, although I think that the slightly odd pairing of a peculiar banana-flavoured goo could have been forgone.
We both order the traditional signature dish of Pho for main, one veggie and the other seafood. Well. BORING! The chef had clearly forgotten to season anything. Driving us both to add salt (!), soy sauce and chilli to try to liven the thing up. The huge chunks of pak choi made for a very messy chomping and as for the seafood - a great big hunk of grilled salmon, two tiny baby squid and apparently a prawn - yes A prawn- but after much sifting for gold I gave up on that one. In fact, it was so dull that neither me nor my friend even attempted to finish it as it wasn't worth the effort. Considering that there is a now fairly ubiquitous chain eponymous upon this dish, the House of Ho should be outdoing these "fast food" outlets, but sadly not. They did seem to be mortified when they came to take the nearly full plates away and also very surprised. Maybe they had an off day or maybe no one has told them. But it was pretty terrible.
We had a beer and a cocktail each and the bill still came to £100 - on a set menu, so this is a restaurant that either needs to be on expenses or more for a special occassion. I don't mind spending lots of money on food, it's my vice, but this experience will not have me running back.
Having dined in Bam Bou for almost 20 years, this replacement is a true disappointment.