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House of Ho – Vietnamese Brunch & Free Flow Drinks

When something is marketed as a “Rock’n’Roll Brunch”, it’d better be really, really R&R to escape my cynical marketing person BS radar. Soho House of Ho, brainchild of “celebrity chef” (sorry, another term that sounds alarm bells in my brain) Bobby Chin, promises this and more for its weekend brunch. And boy, it takes a lot – ok, it takes the prospect of bottomless booze – to lure me to Soho on a sunny Sunday morning of all times – especially to a space that has clearly been designed with the night in mind. Touches of glitz and exotic flowers do a good job at lifting an otherwise pared back décor, looking inevitably a touch shabby in the harsh morning light. A trio of musicians is playing acoustic versions of pop and rock classics – really a delightful touch for a Sunday brunch, but sadly we weren’t able to hear them anymore once sat at the back of the room (I will ask for a window table next time).

The R&R brunch seems to be a smash hit and most tables are full – I even bump into my friend, Instagram superstar and man-about-town @ClerkenwellboyEC1. In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, “bubbly” is the word that appropriately describes both the front of house stuff and our chirpy waitress – and whilst it’s easy to be blasé about it, I honestly could do with a bit more people who don’t look miserable in their job, especially in a place as busy and hectic as this.

We are duly instructed on the rules of the house and what’s the deal with the “bottomless part” – I must say, it’s pretty straightforward and there are no catches. It IS bottomless and you can eat and drink to your heart’s content in a 2-hour slot, which is fine by me.

house of ho brunch menu

The brunch formula comes in two sizes, all with bottomless starters (to choose from a list of six), a choice of two mains (with the more expensive menu having a wider choice and including HoH signature dishes) and dessert for the £36 pounds. The “free flow” alchohol comes in the form of jugs of cocktails with appropriately exotic names and ingredients, and bubbly (prosecco. No, I won’t try it…erring on the side of caution as I am scarred by too much cheap bad fizz at work events). We go for a Yum Rum Dragon and a Yuzu Sake Mohito; cocktails are not killer strong, as it’s rarely the case in pitchers, but they make a pleasant enough accompaniment to the food and will help you kill time during the wait (spoiler: you may have to wait a bit).

I can’t deny I went to House of Ho with no high expectations about the food – if anything, I tend to dislike “poshed up” simple Asian cuisine, small portions with unnecessary fussy presentation, London prices rarely justified by quality of produce- and also, the restaurant seems to have suffered in its first few months with a streak of tepid or downright bad online reviews. So I was pleasantly surprised by the level of the cuisin and the reasonable size of the plates (and I swear, that was BEFORE alcohol clouded my judgement). Don’t expect the saltiness/sweetness/fieriness that most people associate with “authentic” Asian – flavours are understated and clean, no salty or pungent sauces– but they still beat the traditional eggy brunch to me, and then let’s be honest, they do a better job at carrying off the bottomless drinks.

The highlights:

the Shaking Beef : it was one of the most delicious beef dishes I have ever had; I never quite got what the fuss on the shaking part was about, but now I know exactly what’s my golden standard for it. Properly wok-charred bits of tender beef, still juicy and pink inside. If they had bottomless beef, I’d be there avery day (joking. Maybe just every Sunday).

the Smoky Aubergine: it tastes as good as it looks bad.

the Pho Cuon: a light but satisfying bite, with crunchy leaves and tasty meat or mushrooms, so good we order two.

the Pork Belly: another signature dish, it was melt-in-your mouth soft but still had a good bite of crispy skin. It is a small portion, as remarked by critics, but I couldn’t eat more than that after all the rest.

– [crowdsourced tip] the Lychee cocktail is apparently the best of the pitchers (thanks @angelaymlau)

house of ho starters

Starters from the brunch menu: the Pho Cuon, Spring Rolls and the dismal looking Smoky Aubergine dish (yes, the picture was taken BEFORE we ate it)

Not so great:

You can give a miss to the squid, and to the icecream (chocolate cake has ran out by the time we got to dessert). Also, arm yourself with a bit of patience – however enthusiastic, service seems to sometimes have a hard time keeping up with demand, and missed the snacks and one of our repeat orders.

house of ho brunch main dishes

Shaking Beef and Pork Belly

A verdict on the gig

If you go (I know you want it – free flow cocktails are just too hard to resist), do focus on the best dishes and try to avoid the weakest, don’t look at your clock and get ready for a good time at great value. Overall, I think the House of Ho menu and cuisine style works well in this generous brunch formula – perhaps even better than it does for dinner: lighter flavours, small plates, a buzzy, typically Soho vibe and even the haphazard but friendly service all make it a worthy option for a brunch in Central London, and yes, definitely a bit “rock’n’roll”.

 

I was a guest for brunch at House of Ho. Opinions are mine.

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