Friend or Pho
Anna Nguyen and Chelsea Le are daughters of refugees who fled Vietnam during the war. Their restaurant takes you on a journey across Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, with specialities from every region.
The menu includes recipes sourced from hawker vendors in Vietnam, as well as those handed down through generations of their respective families.
Pho, the house speciality, is made from scratch by simmering bones for 12 hours. A vegan version uses wild mushrooms and tofu instead.
Other highlights include banh xeo, savoury pancakes with either pork and prawn or mixed wild mushrooms; ga ran (fried chicken); and banh hoy – a crispy roast pork dish served on pillows of rice vermicelli – that’s usually reserved for special occasions.
Match with a BYO beer or wine, or make a selection from the coffee menu – Five Senses beans are used to make espresso and Vietnamese iced coffee.
Nguyen and Le wanted the space to be reminiscent of the lantern-lit eateries in Hoi An. Hence the festoon lighting and cathedral mesh cage outside, from which recycled hardwood benches fold down to create outdoor seating and a takeaway window. The wire mesh is a feature throughout the interior as well, alongside light wood tables and bright white walls.
From the styling of the shop through to the menu, they aim for a fusion of their parents’ homeland (southern Vietnam) and their own (the inner west).