Hanoi Hannah is a fairly recent addition to Elsternwick in a great location (Glenhuntly Road, opposite Elsternwick Station). It offers mainly Vietnamese light bites, such as rolls and banh mi, and soups. It’s a fairly small venue, and was heaving the entire time we were there for lunch, which lead to a buzzing feel and lively atmosphere. We chose to sit outside, as inside just seemed too claustrophobic and noisy for my liking (it was like a Wednesday lunch time, not a Saturday night). Service was prompt, but if anything, slightly brisk and there was little about the staff that would have me running back to the place.
We ordered the tender beef pho and the spicy beef brisket pho. I enjoyed them, they were a generous portion size and full of flavour. I felt my food contained a good amount of beef and noodles (not just a bowl of liquid with a few bits thrown in for good measure), although some of my beef was quite chewy. My other half was disappointed as he felt I got much more meat, however, on tasting his brisket, his meat was of a much higher quality and I would gladly have traded my quantity for his quality. While they weren’t the most authentic of phos, I do appreciate when a restaurant makes something slightly different, rather than trying to imitate its counterparts so they don’t lose too many points for this. The beansprout on the side seemed a bit unnecessary, it didn’t look great and brought little to the dish – I’ve seen this done much better, with a range of herbs also provided to allow you to adjust the flavour of your pho if desired. It wouldn’t have been a big stretch for Hanoi Hannah to make this extra effort, but it would have given the meal a much more refined finish.
Overall, Hanoi Hannah fills a nice gap in the Elsternwick market. Is it the best pho in Melbourne, of course not – but then anyone looking for that in Elsternwick is more than a little misguided. Is it good pho, and would I return – yes and yes. It’s a bit rough around the edges but with a few tweaks this restaurant could be really great. It is simple, tasty and fairly affordable Vietnamese food with flavours that worked and left me feeling satisfyingly full for the rest of the day.