A Vietnamese restaurant has been given the lowest possible food hygiene rating - after serving noodle soup with undercooked beef to customers.

But the restaurant owner claims that her chefs are just serving Vietnam’s national dish in the traditional way.

The restaurant, Bowl O’ Pho, in Bromley High Street, found itself in hot water following a visit by food hygiene inspectors from Bromley Council, who observed staff serving rare beef pho noodle soup.

The recipe includes very thin slices of beef which are served rare, but which are cooked by the customer themselves when they mix them with boiling-hot broth, which is served to the side of the dish.

Inspectors found the dish posed "an imminent health risk" and made restaurant owner Thi Huyen Le sign a contract to say she would not serve undercooked beef.

Bowl O’ Pho was given zero out of five in the inspection, in September, meaning 'urgent improvement necessary.'

But Mrs Le said: “The way we serve the rare beef pho is traditionally the way that all Vietnamese restaurants serve it.

“I don’t think it is fair. The council is making me cook the beef and then put it into the bowl and this is not how it is traditionally made.

“The inspector said, ‘can’t you just fry the side of the beef and then slice that bit off and then serve it to the customer?’ But that’s not how we make it - it’s not an English steak!

“The beef is expensive. We slice it really thin. How do they expect us to do it in that way?

“We have only been open a couple of months and it has been quiet. Now we've had a customer complain that the rare beef wasn’t made in the way other restaurants make it.”

A council spokesperson said: “The restaurant admitted to selling two dishes which contained thinly sliced rare beef, namely pho and bun bo hue.

“The dishes would either be served with boiling hot broth poured over the meat which would almost instantaneously cook the meat which would be safe to consume or with the broth poured on the side leaving the sliced meat raw, which was the option which caused concern.

“The practice of serving the dished with the broth being poured on the side was considered to pose an imminent risk to health and the owner voluntarily agreed to cease selling the dishes in this way.”

News Shopper spoke to Uyen Luu a chef who specialises in Vietnamese food, who has worked with Jamie Oliver and runs Vietnamese cookery lessons.

Ms Luu said that the traditional way of making rare beef pho was to pour the boiling broth directly onto the beef.

The rare beef was not the only reason why the restaurant got such a poor hygiene rating.

The council spokesman said: “In addition, at the time of the inspection there was not sufficient understanding of the food safety hazards, no food safety management system and no controls in place to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

“Further visits have been carried out since the initial inspection and the Council’s Food Safety team was satisfied that the premises no longer posed a health risk to customers.”