Thankfully I needn't have been concerned, my small boys ate absolutely loads, as did we all. Vegetarians are very well catered for, but be sure to mention it to your hosts, as they will omit fish sauce from your meal.
Pho has some really unusual drinks choices, including South East Asian favourites Apple, Mint and Lime freshly squeezed juice (available on standard and children's menu) and Beer Lao (for the grown ups). The juices were universally agreed to be delicious, with a punchy hit of flavour, tangy and incredibly fresh.
The children's menu has no starters, but our boys were kept entertained by the colouring sheet menus and pencil crayons. Our 7 year old was even tempted enough to eat one of my Chả giò (Crispy spring rolls served with lettuce & herbs to wrap & dip).
My partner's starter was an entire plateful of deconstructed noodle, beef and vegetable roll. Bò lá lốt Beef wrapped in betal leaves, served with rice vermicelli sheets & nuoc cham. One of the most impressive things about Pho is the extra 'herbs on the side'. If you don't like coriander, just don't add it!
The Children's Menu is non-patronising, little versions of the big meals. It's really very exciting, but easy to put into simple terms for children. Our boys chose Bun with Nem Nuang (rice noodles and pork balls), and Wok-Fried Rice With Egg with Chicken (egg fried rice with chicken). Chopsticks are on the table, but you can ask for cutlery or novice chopsticks without being made to feel daft.
It was my boys' first time using chopsticks and we were really stunned because my 7 year old picked it up instantly! His brother tried the 'novice' chopsticks (fastened together at one end), but typically went back to a fork after he'd picked out the chicken.
My partner and I both chose a Phở Vietnamese noodle soup dish for main. My partner chose Phở bò nấm trúng (house special) made with Brisket, enoki & button mushrooms and creamy egg yolk in beef broth. My Phở chay was really packed with Tofu and button mushrooms.
Our teenager meanwhile went for a Cơm Tấm (broken rice) main course. Their dish was Cà-ri, a rich, fragrant Vietnamese curry with veggies & mushrooms, topped with nuts & served with the broken rice. As it turns out broken rice is almost what we would know as sticky rice.
We were all pretty full at this point, so the Vietnamese Desserts were actually spot on. Refreshing ice creams and sorbets alongside variations of things we know well. I'll share them all with you, just because....dessert....everyone loves dessert...
Banh lá d pandan pancake with roasted coconut and Honey & Ginger Ice Cream
Chui chiên banana fritter with Honey & Ginger Ice Cream
Because the ice creams are all unusual flavours to our UK palate, our waitress offered to bring a sample for my boys to try. She said she doesn't like to see children disappointed when their ice cream isn't what they were expecting. That is above and beyond nice, and for that lovely touch alone I would recommend Pho to anyone with young children.
In fact all of the staff we dealt with, especially two young women, were really friendly and helpful. They seemed a lovely bunch of people to work with, and there was genuine attentiveness and welcome for the customers.
In the end both boys chose the Strawberry & Fresh Basil Kem sorbet. My partner's dessert was the Bánh sô-cô-la Truffle - chocolate truffle slab served with green tea ice cream.
Our meal was provided free of charge and the boys have filmed what they thought for the Manchester Corn Exchange website, where their review will appear on the Corn Exchange Kids Guide. Most of the restaurants in the Corn Exchange in Manchester city centre have menus for children and high chairs.
We loved our first taste of Vietnamese Street Food. I was stunned to see my children eat so well, and it was brilliant to be able to let them experience those new tastes. I'm still shocked at my 7 year old being able to eat rice with chopsticks like a pro! All of the dishes were incredibly fresh and flavoursome. We all enjoyed what we ordered, and the children were intrigued by everything and enjoyed having a taste of other foods.
The Manchester Corn Exchange is accessible to wheelchair users and pushchairs. Restaurants are on the ground floor or both floors, some with indoor 'outdoor seating' in the central triangle. There are two lovely gentlemen (concierge?) walking around who will happily help you with any questions or issues.