House of Ho is a modern Vietnamese restaurant that serves small sharing plates from a menu spanning ‘Light and Raw’, ‘Hot and Grilled, and ‘Ho’s Dishes’ From the outside it looks quite modest, but inside it’s huge with a long slick bar that splits the dining area into isolated little sections. This partitioning might be ok on paper but what it actually creates in practise are spookily quiet zones with little atmosphere and overly attentive waiters with only one or two tables to look after when the restaurant is quiet. It makes the wonderful art of food (and cocktail) perving practically impossible as you can see nothing the other guests are choosing. Nightmare!
What it lacked in atmosphere I was hoping it would make up for with food but after a promising start with some fresh and punchy duck Pho Cuon (cold rice noodle rolls, £5) things went down hill. Crab pomelo salad (£7) with mint and lemon oil sounded like a thing of fresh, sharp beauty but in reality was a portion of unseasoned raw veg and bland pomelo that buried away all of the delicate and ungenerously portioned crab. Spicy salmon tartare (£7) was topped with a raw quails egg and surrounded by seasonings of chopped pistachio, herbal shiso and turnip but despite it’s very pretty appearance, it lacked flavour and heat.
Pork belly, cabbage and egg was a really wonderful combination of caramelised tender meat that had been slow braised for 36 hours before being cold smoked with sweet apple. When I left, I thought that this would be the dish to get me back again, but on reflection, at £11 it’s simply too small. Lemongrass monkfish (£12) came with a delicious sticky caramel sauce full of sweetness that was balanced perfectly by punchy lemongrass and earthy fish sauce. I loved it but it was absolutely tiny and not even enough for 2 to share.I like the idea that House of Ho could do for Vietnamese what Zucca has done for Italian or Opera Tavern does so well for tapas, but for me it falls short on too many things to make it work.