Going out for dinner the night after Valentines Day isn’t always the best idea in the world. A couple of years ago I visited a now extinct Teppanyaki restaurant and found the rather stressed owner had given the chef (his wife) the night off expecting a quiet time and was desperately trying to fill in for her. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting for a chopped onion and a glass of wine to arrive.
No such problems at the House of Ho. Situated over 4 levels on the corner of Percy Street, around the back of Tottenham Court Road in Fitzrovia, the restaurant is in one of my favourite ares of London. Inside there’s a table for every occasion – the ground floor has a modern brasserie type feel that is great for a lunch, next there’s a fab bar and restaurant area with an additional dining room to the side (The Wine Room) and three more private dining rooms at the top. Apparently these can be booked and mood shifted accordingly to requirements and the front rooms all have great views of the bustling vibrancy of Charlotte Street.
‘Ho’ was originally fronted by ex-Wall St trader, food author and experienced restaurateur Bobby Chinn, but it’s now under the care of former Gordon Ramsey employee and well known Pan-Asian chef, Ian Pengelley. The Far Eastern cuisine has been passionately close to his heart from an early age – when his family moved with the military to Hong Kong in 1977, 7yr old Ian’s senses came immediately under attack “The smells, sights, sounds were incredible.” he remembers fondly.
When asked about why he decided to become involved with The House of Ho he enthuses… “I’ve opened other Asian restaurants (Chinese, Japanese and Thai) before, but this time I wanted to really focus on Vietnamese cuisine. We’ll be expanding our sister brand ‘Ho Modern Vietnamese’ at other sites across London, with one planned to open in April. They’re more casual and are aimed at a more informal dining experience, it’s got great quick dishes and cocktails, but the Fitzrovia restaurant is our flagship site – modern and sexy. The menu is high end, with some showstopper dishes like ‘Hanoi Grilled Red Snapper with hot and sour broth (£40)’.”
Great ideas can fall flat in the kitchen without the dedication, at House of Ho the execution matches the ingenuity and Ian’s not scared to turn on the showmanship should the need arise for a touch of theatre – including among other things, dry ice. I didn’t get to try Ian’s favourite dish on the menu ‘The Wagyu Pho’, a 24 hour braised short rib from Australia, but if the Wagyu is as tender as ‘Shaking Beef’ another meaty dish on the menu I did sample – 30 day-aged cubes of tender fillet beef seared in a hot wok, it will be something else.
Classics such as ‘Crispy quid with chilli sea salt (£7)’ are light and zingy, sitting alongside more ambitious dishes such as a spectacular ‘Chilean Seabass with Vietnamese Fermented Plum Sauce (£30)’.
The ‘Bun Bao (£7)’ is steamed and then Pan-Crisped – it’s delicate, not gloppy, so too are the delightful ‘King Prawn & Chive dumplings £6.50’. An unusual Smoked Trout with Green Mango Salad (£12.50) is fresh flavoured and clean on the palette. The ‘Soft Shell Crab with Vietnamese Sauces (£8.50)’ – served on a bed of dried chilies is so huge it needs two people to carry it in. Talking of which, service is great and waiter Dimitri was happy to advise and recommend dishes and wine to compliment.
One real highlight (If you can manage dessert) is the ‘Warm Green Tea Chocolate Pudding, served with Passion fruit & Vanilla Ice (£8)’. Break the pastry and indulgence oozes from within. Without doubt one of the best desserts I’ve eaten for a while. Simply Fantastic!
London is full of great Vietnamese food these day. Places like the ever-expanding ‘Pho’ empire and the House of Ho’s sister restaurant on Compton St (now called simply ‘Ho’) have done really well serving quick, tasty authentic Vietnamese flavours at good prices. ‘The House of Ho’ in Fitzrovia takes these Vietnemese flavours and ramp things up to a higher level of sophistication and artistic creativity and as such it’s recommended for lovers of good taste(s), whatever the date may be.
House of Ho
1 Percy St,
London W1T 1DW