The front door slams shut and as we walk to the car and I breathe some warmth into my hands, I already know what I want for tea. I again desire the familiar taste of Vietnamese food tonight – something light, warm and comforting – so we drive to Marrickville – the inner west’s lil’ Vietnam. This time, I want to try something different – a different joint, and although we’ve been there before, the restaurant that comes to mind and gets agreeance is a little further up Illawarra Road – but well worth the extra yards. We couldn’t remember what it’s called but we follow our third nose and spot it – well lit up and with some activity inside – all good signs.
Pho Ha Noi Quan is a splendid and cosy/compact restaurant like no other. Within easy walking distance from the Marrickville train station and on a main/busy street, it maintains a continual flow of loyal/die-hard customers. When I say it’s a little further up Illawarra Road (compared to the Photown gang at least) – it’s a slight exaggeration, and once you’ve eaten here – believe me you’ll walk miles and fight wars to return.
Finding a parking spot on Illawarra Road is a test of luck/patience at the best of times, but we notice a car leaving (woohoo!) on the other side of the road – we quickly do a u-ie and luckily snag a spot about 50 meters away, with the back bumper of our car barely sticking out past the line. We quickly check ourselves out in the car mirror, exit and then enter Pho Ha Noi Quan.
We exchange greets/smiles with the waitress and she points us to our table – the table for three by the window – possibly the best table in the house, and under a bright light too – perfect for food photos. The windows are partially covered with laminated menus/food pics and other media, which is great for us because we like to eat with some privacy but still be able to peek through the gaps to see what action is happening outside if we choose to.
We are given menus and complimentary tea – lovely. I spin my head around as humanly possible to view/scan the room and I smile at what makes this place so unique/special besides its amazing food. The restaurant is not shy with decorations/display objects, and everywhere I look, every possible space – there’s something wonderful to contemplate – either an artwork, object/figurine, poster/painting, jar of preserve, silk/artificial flower, bric-a-brac/antique, etc – you name it. This was right up my alley, and as a
hoarder collector of stuff, I appreciated some of the fine objects they had on display. It reminded me of a Newtown antique shop (that serves food) or some much loved arty/grunge cafe/bar in the X.
We found this place through the recommendation of an artist/sculptor friend, and besides the food, I can see why he approves/likes it so. I noticed something that looks like a baby’s high chair in the corner, and thought ‘wow – interesting – they even have a high chair on display!’ I quickly came to my senses and realised that the high chair also serves a practical purpose for baby diners.
Hey, what’s going on in here? How do I tell what’s an artwork/decoration in here, and what’s not? Perhaps, the diners and waitstaff are all part of the installation/performance too? I guess everything in here serves a purpose – either to just look pretty/beautiful, protect the house, provide some light or simply exist. Some restaurants provide music and television screens to entertain their patrons – Pho Ha Noi Quan provides a collection of mixed media art – awesome.
I have not recently seen a place/restaurant like this, and monochrome/minimal/simple/clean lines/designs, etc are often favoured these days as they serve practical/some aesthetic purposes. I felt right at home here – sitting and absorbing/admiring the artworks, and enjoying the food/fragrance and commotion/drama going on in the room. There is hardly any vacant display shelf/wall space left but I did notice some spare wall space to my right and thought about asking the staff if they would be kind enough to hang up one of my paintings. Next time, I will do this.
About the food – we ordered well, and it tasted great – as expected – rich in deliciousness and freshness and generously served. We enjoyed our meal immensely and am happy to share our finding/experience with you, and look forward to returning to Pho Ha Noi Quan to try more of their awesome/delicious food and see if something new has made it on display in the gallery/museum room.
- Delicious Vietnamese food – well-priced, generous serve, fresh and tasty ingredients
- Extensive menu
- Some unusual dishes on the menu, eg – combination pork congee for meat/offal lovers – recommended!
- Complimentary tea
- Fast and efficient service
- Charming gallery/antique store interior
- Located a little further up Illawarra Road, from Marrickville Road (but well worth the trip)