Pimpin’ ain’t easy, reckoned Ice-T in 1987, but running a Ho House seems to be. This new Soho spot is proprietor Bobby Chinn’s third; his other two are, oddly, 6,000 miles away in Saigon and Hanoi. House of Ho is Vietnamese, sort of, although it’s very different from the Hackney noodle cafes with their arm-long menus. Many of Ho’s dishes are deconstructed, reconstructed or generally messed around with. There’s no reason why Vietnamese food shouldn’t get the modernist makeover treatment, but if the result leaves you asking ‘why?’ rather than ‘why not?’, it maybe hasn’t quite worked.
So, a salmon tartare was surrounded by little deposits of chopped pistachio and jicama (Mexican turnip), while grilled quail came with the constituent ingredients of a dipping sauce that had to be assembled by the diner. Why wasn’t apparent, although there was no shortage of staff on hand to explain how to do it or to ask how everything was. Lemongrass monkfish with caramel sauce came with generous chunks of fish but the liquid they swam in was Cadbury’s sweet, and a bowl of rice didn’t come at all until we asked for it twice.
House of Ho is a dim, sleek place, and its cocktails and lounge house music perhaps suggest it’s best suited to a night-time scene. But it’s not cheap: lunch with two drinks was £60, and for these prices, the dishes should be better.