It is Tuesday evening and my stomach is rumbling. I leave the office and venture towards Oxford Circus to meet Jack. I walk down the escalator at Uni Qlo and find him standing staring at a rainbow of socks. He turns around, arms full of multi coloured cottons, I give him a quick peck and tell him where we are heading. You see, he has the knack of never quite knowing what we’re doing. I am in charge of the diary – all I need to do is tell him where to meet me and I’ll quite often lead him to where we need to be.
The restaurant in question this evening is East Street, a newly opened Fitzrovia joint serving a range of dishes inspired by the founder’s travels across Asia. Upon arrival, Jack turned to me and said ‘this is impressive’. He was talking about the way in which the restaurant has been decorated. Multi coloured signs hang from the ceiling, long communal tables fill the main dining area and colourful chairs, food products and travel paraphernalia provide a warming welcome. I was surprised, not because I didn’t think that interior was impressive, but because Jack rarely gives such accolades. He is a designer and has a very critical eye – if he thinks the design of the restaurant is average, he’s usually right, annoyingly. On this occasion he was right, but on first impressions the restaurant lacked something – buzz. But this was probably down to the fact that we arrived at 6.30, which is relatively early, particularly on a Tuesday evening.
We were seated at a table for two towards the back of the restaurant and left to peruse the menu. There was a lot of perusing to do – the menu was huge. Slightly overwhelmed by the amount of dishes presented to us on one huge card menu, we started with a bowl of freshly steamed and crisp edamame (£3.95). Good start, but then you can hardly go wrong with that. This was followed by Tod Man Khao Pod (£4.25), a plate of crisp corn fritters with a delicious chili and peanut dip. We also shared a plate of Gyoza (£4.95), which had a crisp exterior and a minced pork, bamboo shoot and spring onion filling.
For mains, we shared the Khao Soi aka Changmai Noodles (£8.95) and the Chicken Abobo (£7.50). I was slightly surprised at the small portions on arrival but this surprise was quickly diminished as my stomach started to tell me that she was getting full. The Khao Soi was a mixture of tender chicken breast cooked in a red curry sauce with yellow noodles, topped with fresh lime and a smattering of coriander. It was a tasty dish but disappointed on the spice front, particularly as the menu stipulated that it was a spicy dish with two red chillies next to the name.
The Chicken Abobo was not so great. A plate of chicken coated in a slightly gloopy and almost tasteless sauce was the low light of the evening. The accompanying sweet potato slices resembled vegetable crisps – not bad but not expected.
Our empty plates were efficiently swiped away from us and replaced with the dessert menu. We chose the Khao Niaow Mamuang (£5.25) and Bubor Pulot Hitta (£4.50) – two out of the three most exotic sounding desserts on the menu. I had previously read a review of East Street by Hollowlegs and she wasn’t overly pleasant about the Khao Niaow Mumuang, stating that the mango was not ripe and the rice was sticky and glutinous. Unfortunately I cannot compare it to the ‘real thing’ but this was my favourite dish of the evening. My mango was ripe, the rice sticky sweet with a good addition of coconut cream. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough cream.
The second dessert, Bubor Pulot Hitta, didn’t prove so popular – neither of us really liked it. We found it to be a little flavourless and not creamy and sugary as the menu stated.
I so badly didn’t want East Street to be more style over substance but I couldn’t help feeling that way, just a teensy little bit. I love the authentic touches – the travel paraphernalia stuck to the walls (diners are encouraged to bring their own and add to the collection), the flight announcements in the toilets, the colourful website and signs. But the food lacked punch and we left having had an enjoyable meal but without the dishes leaving a lasting impression.
Food For Think was a guest at East Street
3-5 Rathbone Place