Food: ★★☆☆☆ Service: ★★★☆☆ Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆ Value: ★★☆☆☆ Overall: ★★☆☆☆
House of Ho is Chef Bobby Chinn’s London venture and builds on his success in Vietnam. Perhaps that’s the problem as in an attempt to cater to a British palate, the food feels dull and bland rather than the bold spicy flavours which I associate such food thanks to Cay Tre, City Caphe, and Café East. To be fair, there are some stand out dishes, but after a meal that encompassed roughly half the menu, we were left feeling a bit disappointed and even a tad hungry.
The atmosphere is cosy and the staff friendly although appear to still be in a shake out phase with coordination among the team leaving something to be desired. Price wise, it’s expensive once you take into account the small portion size for all dishes so expect to shell out around £40pp for food and a cocktail. Despite the rave reviews from a couple of friends, the experience was such a let down I don’t see a return visit in the near future – I’d rather head back to Soho Kitchen & Bar for their killer burger!
Although HoH has a number of interesting cocktails, there is virtually no bar area to speak of and you are much better off finding somewhere else to collect a group. Carom on Wardour St serves up excellent albeit potent cocktails and easily caters to larger groups. Alternatively, Archer St is always a favourite with my friends for some wine or bubbly ahead of a meal.
No Pho at Ho?
Nope. HoH is more Vietnamese-inspired rather than what I’ve come to associate as traditional Vietnamese so you won’t see any Pho or Banh Mi on the menu. I admit that I’ve never been to Vietnam (although I hope to go in the next year!), so I’m relying on my experience at restaurants in London and the word of my Vietnamese friends. Still, strong flavours, spicy chillies, and plenty of curry/gravy with rice are the foundations for such cuisine.
We started with the both the mushroom and the duck rice noodle rolls followed by the chilli glazed chicken wings, stuffed tofu, and smokey aubergine. Our “mains” were the lemongrass monkfish, chicken potato curry, and apple smoked pork belly with a side of morning glory.
The wild mushroom rolls got us off to a good start with the meaty sautéed mushrooms having a good depth of flavour. The rice noodle wrap is fairly thick rather than the almost translucent skin of a typical summer roll. While it made each bite very chewy, the taste was still enjoyable. The duck in comparison was tasteless with the admittedly tender flesh lacking any of the flavourful fat you’d associate with the meat. The accompanying sauces were weak and watery which failed to make up for the rolls’ lack of taste.
Next, the wings were perfectly cooked with tender succulent meat and the mild glaze imparted a modicrum of flavour at the first bite. However, once you got past the skin the wing itself cried out for a bit of salt – a theme that would be repeated consistently throughout the meal. In fact, both the tofu and aubergine had the foundations for being a great dish but were let down in the seasoning – particularly the aubergine which was overwhelmingly smoky to the point that it felt more that someone had accidentally tipped in a bottle of liquid smoke!
The monkfish with a caramel sauce was one of my favourite dishes. Despite being slightly overcooked and firm, the taste was excellent and I could easily have eaten the whole dish myself. Coupled with the grilled morning glory, I think it was the highlight of the meal for me. It certainly wasn’t the chicken potato curry which would have been more at home on the cheaper end of Brick Lane.
Finally, dessert took the form of a molten chocolate fondant. For once, my thoughts matched the professional critics who compared it to a Gu chocolate fondant and found it wanting.
Okay, so maybe not the food but what about the drinks?
All four of our cocktails were beautifully presented with very interesting flavour combinations. My “Ho’rny Devil” was a shaken martini of lemongrass vodka and chilli rimmed with dessicated coconut. It was one of the prettiest cocktails I’ve had in a while, but lacking in any punch or potency. After tasting my companions’ cocktails, I think it’s a fair assumption to say that the cocktails are great to look at, reasonably tasty, but not something to get your buzz on. And for £9 apiece, I’d prefer to get a bit of the tipsy glow or I’d just stick with the juices.
I think the cocktails have potential and the flavour combinations show great creativity. If HoH could be a tad less conservative on the alcohol and bolder on the key flavours then the drinks alone may be a reason to visit.
Worth the dosh?
Sadly, no. Our ten dishes and 4 cocktails came to a staggering £135. Given that a) we were still hungry at the end of the meal, and b) we were still hungry, it was disappointing at best. Or to put it another way, we headed across the street to Chinatown for a pork bun in order to round off dinner – and those £1.30 buns may have been one of the highlights of the evening.
I wanted to like HoH, I really did. It had all the right things and perhaps I had too high expectations, but I’d rather get my Vietnamese fix from Cay Tre or Café East where I can fill my belly for a fraction of the price and enjoy the full flavours that I crave. Sure they don’t have a jazzy look or pretty drinks, but the food is damn good and really that’s what I want when I go out for dinner.
Find House of Ho here
55-59 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HR
020 7287 0770