Pho was my first experience of Vietnam, which is slightly sad given that it’s perched on top of the brand new Westgate shopping centre in Oxford rather than the busy streets of Hanoi.

How authentic it would therefore be was debatable, but as a large UK chain, despite all the hype, I was expecting a generic version, a jazzed up tourist friendly, bastardised rendition of the real thing.

Which is of course massively missing the point. Because once you reach Pho, so named after the national bowls of noodles served in Vietnam, it envelopes you as soon as you arrive.

Don’t don’t let the queues of people waiting outside put you off though, because their numbers drop off pretty quickly, the space inside being so vast that turnover is quicker than Hong King Phooey in a karate knock out competition.

And being in the Westgate, where people eat at all times of the day and night, you can always get lucky.

What greets you then is a vibrant, bright, exotic, bustling kind of place, with neon lights, wooden tables, screens and exotic looking food being whisked off to expectant customers, steaming as it passes.

And it was absolutely heaving. Yes it’s just opened and everyone wants a piece of the action, but once the mist has cleared this will still be a popular venture because of the fun factor.

You could bring anyone here, children, grandparents, work colleagues, lovers, and all would be enthralled.

Customers sat staring in at the novel food being laid in front of them in a constant stream, steaming bowls of noodles accompanied by trays of Asian ingredients, some great looking cocktails; an oriental theatre of food.

I took my teenage sons and some of their friends, all of whom having expressed an interest in Pho over and above anywhere else, which says it all really.

As they are all over 18 we piled into the exotic sounding cocktails as we tried to make sense of the menu.

It all sounded delicious but what to have? The basil and lemon martini helped making decisions, as did the Ca Pha Martini with condensed milk and Vietnamese coffee. We didn’t like the rose apple Bellini though- all prosecco and no pomme, but the Hanoi Mule more than made up for it.

The food then began arriving like a carnival train. Plates of succulent pork and lemongrass meatballs, spring rolls with lettuce and satay sauce. Rolling things up in lettuce leaves or vermicelli with sauce is quite a thing in Vietnam it would seem. The crab and pork spring rolls were less of a success, an odd combination despite our lovely waitress' recommendations.

The Vietnamese version of chicken wings were “so damn hot you could fry an egg down your trousers” as Robin Williams so memorably quoted in the movie Good Morning Vietnam.

After this colourful bonanza of food, we breathed and then embraced the cornucopia of mains, from the Ca-Ri, a wonderfully piquant Vietnamese curry which was perhaps my favourite, weighed down by delicious additions such as bean sprouts and Thai basil to grated carrots and fresh herbs, so you can add and adjust them as much as you like. And then the famous pho. We tried the spring green version which was very healthy, a veggie option with tofu and mushrooms, and the chicken. Phos are a real spectacle to behold, the steaming noodles in broth arriving with its own shelf of nuts, lime, herbs and leaves to add. The spicy green was a bit watery though, the broth lacking flavour, but the remaining phos were a massive hit and enormously filling. We took home considerable doggy bags and dined on the leftovers for days.

Then a side of Bun noodles, served at room temperature as is traditional, with sauces and veg to mix in alongside spring rolls, chilli and lemongrass until we slowly ground to a halt, all the colour and taste in the world unable to raise another chopstick to our lips.

Sadly we were so full we couldn’t manage dessert, and I know that I must have been as stuffed as Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve because they had banana fritters with ice cream on the menu, my all time favourite dessert and I would have eaten under the table if I could have fitted it in.

By the time we left, the crowds had begun to drift home, or continue elsewhere, but for us Pho was memorable for its energy, novelty factor, fresh, tasty food and its sheer vibrancy. Either way it’s a great addition to Oxford's restaurant scene, but whether it’s better than elsewhere? For me, nothing can complete than Banana Tree's laksa or anything at Sojo, so let’s hope there is room for them all.

Pho, Westgate Centre, Oxford.