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REVIEW: The House of Ho, Soho, London

REVIEW: The House of Ho, Soho, London

Strolling in from the neon-lit streets of Soho, the House of Ho welcomes you to a contemporary den hidden away from the glow of this cosmopolitan thoroughfare renowned for its distinct nightlife, café culture and historical LGBTI watering holes.

A homely welcome and a swift coat-check later we were sitting at our table, swathed in low mood lighting and subtle elements of décor that indicated the traditional yet refined undertones of the culinary experience to come – and an experience it was.

Brought up between England, Egypt and San Francisco, with half Chinese and half Egyptian heritage, head chef Bobby Chinn was taken under the wing of cutting edge San Fran chefs Hubert Keller, Gary Danko and Traci Des Jardins to learn his trade and evolve his expertise through travel and osmosis of local and international traditions.

This brings a distinctly unique ethos to Chinn’s food, leading him to own restaurants in Hanoi and London as well as featuring in the fifth series of World Café Asia for Discovery and making Chinn one of Asia’s most exciting chefs and a big attraction on a visit to the House of Ho, not just for his quirky and personable personality; ‘We might be called Ho’s but we are, at least, classy ones’, the menu reads.

 bobby 

Carefully crafted by Bobby himself, the menu offers taste-addicts a wide selection of sharing-plates, sourced from quintessential Vietnamese spices and local produce, served banquet-style – before you’ve licked your fingers clean the next dish is ready to serve a taste explosion!

The ‘Ho’s Rules’ recommends three to four sharing plates per diner, careful to temper the palette we started by sharing one costlier dish to really savor the journey and go with the ethos of appreciating of each dish on its own merit, in hindsight this isn’t the best way to banquet dine.

The seafood ceviche, though cleverly delicate yet exotic in flavor, made us grateful to have held back some Edamame beans and crackers we’d crunched on arrival to accompany due to its size, quickly encouraging us to learn the art of banquet etiquette; savor each dish but have an another to dip in and out of – Bobby swiftly whipped-up some beautiful authentically-spiced steak rolls for us!

 seafood 

With this wisdom we took on Ho’s signature dishes, in our element we went with the some big-ticket numbers that left us far from disappointed.

Nothing could prepare us for the beautiful nature of the Lemongrass Chicken in Fish Caramel sauce; initially hesitant of the combination we went with the spirit and joyous recommendation from our server.

The deeply rich and sticky sauce made this dish for us, accompanied by the citrus hints of lemongrass and soft impressions of steamed jasmine rice to undercut its welcomed intensity the dish really is the perfect tour de force; imagine it as the salted caramel cheesecake equivalent of the semi-savory world, a fusion in its own right.

 chicken 

Still in awe of the beautiful steak rolls we’d had earlier the next choice was obvious, the excitingly named Aberdeen Angus ‘Shaking Beef’ with a side of Morning Glory, a tropical plant grown for its shoots and leaves topped with shallots and crispy garlic.

It’s safe to say when it comes to the delicate art of balance Bobby has got it down – the perfect blend of spice and smokiness did not lose sight of the tender and juicy griddled beef within, each bite was a brute force explosion of taste and meaty greatness and once again we relished a side, Morning Glory, that perfectly complemented this signature dish.

 steak 

Something that is very noteworthy of the House of Ho is their devotion to presentation, one of the most impressive dishes we were given the honor of seeing (and devouring!) was the Crispy Whole Sea Bream.

Standing tall on its light, bubbly battered tailfin the fish landed on the table with no words, just the knowledge that we were in for a treat and never before has my pallet had the luck of enjoying such a succulent white fish, the crispy skin was an accompaniment and taste sensation in its own right and the dish is the perfect way to wind down that certainly left us with a lasting impression of the entire journey.

However we were completely enticed, as we all would be, by the Marou Chocolate Cake from the ‘Happy Endings’ menu and on learning that it was made to order complete with a fondant center we were sold.

There’s always room for dessert – the golden rule on a visit here, enough said.

For a couple, or small group of people, the menu acts as a great tasting session offering hints of Ho’s wonderful potential. To best appreciate the unique diversity of Bobby Chinn’s gastronomy and the magnificent fusion of flavors I would highly suggest visiting the House of Ho the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, with a big party of people ready to chow down on a feast, swap and pass over plates, share laughs from one end of the table to the other and split the bill between all. The House of Ho is perfect for this. And with Miss Saigon performing at the Prince Edward Theatre adjacent until late December 2015 it’s the perfect match made in heaven.

To see the full menu at the House of Ho and book a table, click here.

‘Late Ho’, a new late night offering to those looking for an intimate setting to see in and enjoy the weekend, including a resident DJ and specially crafted Vietnamese bar snacks, has recently launched at the restaurant with the venue open until 1am on Friday and Saturday – come on down, we’ll be there snacking for sure!