Fresh Pan Asian Cooking at East Street, London
Just off the Tottenham Court end of Oxford Street is a new restaurant called East Street. Aiming to offer a range of pan Asian street foods to London, the menu includes Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean dishes all at a reasonable price with a starter sharing platter for 2 at around £11 and mains priced mostly between £8 and £10. The outside is an eclectic mix of far east paraphernalia that looks as if it would be better suited to China Town and when you get inside, the busy (at 1.30pm on a weekday) restaurant with a mix of communal tables and benches and smaller tables for two, is lively and vibrant
I really liked the design of East Street. Yes it was obviously a reconstruction of someone’s vision of ‘a place in Thailand, Malaysia or similar’…but, a bit in the same way that Carluccio’s has a feel of Italy, this place did almost convince you that you might be in Bankok. In a nice, sanitized way. No strong smells, no grimy patches, nothing too seedy. Someone had thought about things, the menu design, the neon signs and the wall décor made me chuckle. It was fun, inoffensive and totally functional. If you want to try out some pan Asian street food this would be good way to start – there’s a huge range of dishes to try and whilst some things may not be as strongly flavoured as the original, it provides a good insight into what to try next.
We were seated quickly and served a palate cleanser of cold redbush tea, which was surprisingly pleasant, while we worked through the menu. My dining companion is piscetarian and while there was plenty of choice of individual dishes, the sharing platters were both predominately meat based. However, a word to the waiter and we were provided with a substitute for all the meat items that meant we could taste a range of starters.
Edame beans were warm and fresh, our tempura fritters very light and crispy and I would happily have lunched on just the sesame prawns which were delicious. My personal ‘least favourite’ was the Goi Cuon, which just seemed a little bland and damp. It was a good, well flavoured selection of dishes, if I have any criticism it is at the overwhelming lack of anything spicy. Perhaps just something on the platter with a bit more of a kick to it would have been good. And, rather bizarrely given the attention to design detail the rest of the time, it was all served on a slate platter which looked as if it had been borrowed from a neighbouring bistro. I’d suggest at some point introducing a vegetarian and perhaps piscatarian option for the sharing platters. And some more spicy options.
I chose the Bo Luc Lac as my main course (Vietnamese shaking beef), which came beautifully served with a side salad of watercress, tomato and red onion. It was an easy dish to eat, with a really well flavoured ‘crust’ over tender rump steak.
My dining companion’s Thai Green Curry was pronounced ‘fine – but a little creamy’.
This was very pleasant, safe Asian street food. Nothing very spicy, nothing very strong. Just a little dumbed down for a Western Palate, but definitely not food to offend.
Our desserts were pretty and really rather good. I probably wouldn’t have ordered dessert other than a need to kill some time but the Caramen Chuoi Ran from Vietnam (banana fritters in a breadcrumb and nut crust) were lovely with sweet soft bananas coated with a crispy nutty batter and served with a little caramel and some ice cream.. My dining companion had a sticky Malaysian black rice pudding with coconut, which he clearly really enjoyed.
Would I go back – yes definitely – for a pre-theatre bite to eat, with my god-daughter or with friends on a tight budget. Our meal with drinks came to just over £56 for the two of us. Was it authentic – well, not really…but who cares, it was very good fun, the staff were friendly and the atmosphere lively.
Disclosure – I dined as a guest of East Street Restaurant.
East Street Restaurant
3-5 Rathbone Place
tel 0207 323 0860