David Adamson takes a dip into a delicious bowl of pho at Wilmslow’s Vietnamese restaurant
VietBowl in Wilmslow sits on the site once occupied by Kids Catwalk.
While one of Cheshire’s wealthiest towns does of course need somewhere for buying Montcler jackets ages 4 and above (£425), it was probably more in need of a Vietnamese restaurant.
The town has always been well-stocked with the likes of Italian restaurants, the cuisine most suited to the kinds of flash and bluster Wilmslow has been known to indulge in.
What it’s often lacked though is a line in high quality, reasonably priced, straight-up-and-down South East Asian restaurants, and now it has one in VietBowl.
The starters are the thing to be relished and savoured, and the pho - ostensibly the main event - becomes a delicious and warming afterthought
About the size of a one car garage, the restaurant is understated despite being partly lit by a lurid pink neon sign reading ‘VietBowl MCR’. Well, Cheshire, but close enough.
The walls are lined in white tiles and from the ceiling hang pendant lights, paper lanterns and an array of artificial foliage. The open kitchen is also tucked into the corner, of all which lends itself to a cosy feeling, which if you’re winched over a bowl of pho is probably what you were after.
I went with my family to celebrate a birthday, an occasion that always calls for a few extra starters. However when that date happens to fall on a Thursday night in the middle of the month you might worry that it’ll be beans on toast until payday. Nothing of the sort at VietBowl, where you can walk out as stuffed as a duck down jacket and have spent less than £40.
We began by ordering starters to share: Goi Cuon summer rolls, both king prawn (£6.50) and pork (£5.50); crispy pork spring rolls (£5.50); salt and pepper chicken wings (£5.50); salt and pepper pork ribs (£5.90).
The summer rolls were lovely, stuffed with vermicelli noodles, fresh, crunchy vegetables and a top layer of either thinly sliced and succulent char sui pork or plump and meaty king prawns. I sometimes find when dishes are wrapped in rice paper there’s too much rice paper and not enough dish, the wrapping clinging to you as you chew through it, but not here, where the filling was the focus. The peanut sauce on the side was a nice accompaniment, but when the rolls are as well-made and fresh as this, they do the job just fine by themselves.
The salt and pepper pork ribs were just what I’d hoped for, deep red and glazed to the point of reflecting the light bulbs above, where you hurry teeth-first around every corner of the rib until, actually, it starts to get a bit embarrassing. The chicken wings were similarly demeaning.
I’ve given special mention to the crispy pork spring rolls in our world-beating Dish of the Month entry for May, so all I’ll say here is this; order them. I know I said the rice paper is nice, but when deep-fried it gets elevated past paper to something like papyrus.
One of the delights of Vietnamese dining for me is that although the pho is the main course, it’s not the centrepiece. Starters are such a joy in restaurants like this that you’d be crazy to just jump past them straight into a bowl of broth. They’re the thing to be relished and savoured, and the pho - ostensibly the main event - becomes a delicious and warming afterthought.
I opted for the OG pho, the Pho Tai with rare beef, and who knew boiled bones could taste this good. The broth was sweet, and soaked beautifully into the beef, which was that rare thing of, well, rare beef that doesn’t take a lifetime to chew through. For something so straight forward in flavour as a beef broth there can be the danger of it tasting simply a bit beefy, some distant cousin of Bovril, but the sweet undercurrent that peppered every messy mouthful made it a joy to greedily sip.
Finally the dessert. While there was the offer of a Vanilla Cheesecake (£3.90) or Chocolate Sponge Cake (£4.50) both seemed just a bit too strange to follow up with, so I went for the Fruit Cocktail (£5.50).
Presented in a latte glass, strips of lychee and jackfruit were practically squeezed into the glass and drowned in sweet coconut milk, which had the nostalgic kick of the sorts of desserts you’d get only at your granny’s house. It was also a welcome way to round off a litany of punchy and powerful flavours, with something sweet and slightly comforting.
Wilmslow will always have at least one shop dedicated to eye-wateringly expensive children’s clothing, but until now it was crying out for somewhere that added variety to the town’s restaurants. Now that it has VietBowl, it’s something that should be savoured.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type, so tea rooms are measured against other tea rooms, casual dining against other casual dining, fine dining against other fine dining.
1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
King Prawn summer rolls (8) Pork summer rolls (7) Pork crispy spring rolls (8) Salt and pepper pork ribs (8) Salt and pepper chicken wings (8) Rare beef Pho tai (9) Fruit cocktail (7)
Attentive, polite and knowledgable
A quiet mid-week night, but full up I'm sure the place would have a buzz