House of Ho has seen a a number of changes two years since inception: Ian Pengelley taking over Bobby Chinn; moving from flamboyant Old Compton Street to cool cat Fitzrovia; a new focus on private dining; a brighter, more convivial new home; a new lounge bar and DJ set. Oh, and the menu is shorter, too.
Taking over the townhouse where Fitzrovia legend Bam Bou used to be, the new space is bright and more refined. I like it – hints of Tom Dixon with the lighting fixtures, a small patio for al fresco drinks, and a few private dining rooms for you and your friends if you have a special occasion to celebrate.
But I was more curious about the food. Ian Pengelley is quite known for his bold and vibrant flavours, having been trained by Gordon Ramsay and boasting a belt of Pan-Asian crowdpleasers on his CV (Mango Tree, E&O, Pan Chai, Gilgamesh). But after hearing mixed reviews about his new takeover, it was time for a spot check and so my buddy B and I went.
To start, we had the Saigon chicken salad (£9.50). Chopped crunchy herbs, veg, strips of tender chicken and chunks of pomelo make up this bowl of goodness. If you don’t know it by now, I’m a sucker for texture and this delivered as much as on flavour. A really good start.
Imperial rolls (£7.50) are essentially pork-stuffed spring rolls. They come in a threesome with a bowl of herbs and nuoc cham dipping sauce. I was expecting some sort of crisp, crunch texture from the wrapping, but unfortunately I was let down. Shame as the filling was actually seasoned well.
And then the pièce de résistance for starters arrived, taking most space of our table: a “small plate” of soft shell crab (£14) served on a ginormous platter of dried chillies and cinnamon sticks. I got rather excited because I do love spicy food so I was quite disappointed when the crabs, crispy as they were as opposed to the spring rolls, were just… average, if not a bit bland. Was all that just for show? Where did the heat go?!
The biggest disappointment, I suppose, was the bo la lot – I’ve heard good things about House of Ho’s offering and at £12 a pop I expected much. So when it came, looking like it’s been on a holiday of a lifetime under the Mediterranean sun, I was quite put off. It didn’t look like it was chargrilled, it looked like charcoal! I gave it a chance but after one bite, I knew it was just too dry and too overcooked.
Thankfully, the jasmine-smoked chilli glazed ribs (£8) were so succulently soft and fall-off-the-bone tender. The ribs were quite meaty and the sauce was sweet and tangy and just… delicious.
For me, service and aesthetics are well up for a standing ovation at House of Ho. Food was a bit disappointing with more misses than hits but I would love to be proven wrong when I visit again, as I genuinely think the space is so beautiful and ideal. Just need to know when.