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East Street (Restaurant)

Picture of East Street in Fitzrovia, London

3-5 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1HJ
Cuisine: Asian
Tel: Not on file | Email to East Street | Transport: Tottenham Court Road | Write review

East Street Review

Best for: Asian ambience; Asian-inspired cocktails.

Great: reminiscing of travelling-years long gone.

My Christmas stocking this year included, amongst other things, two Jamie Oliver cookery books, a pasta pot and pasta roller, a Rick Stein cookery book, a pestle and mortar, and some tea towels. I sense a theme here?

It’s not, as you might first imagine, my family’s way of telling me to get in the kitchen more often, but because of my complete infatuation with food. My current obsession is the cuisine that hails from South East Asia, and I’m more than happy to while my time away chopping exotic sounding herbs and spices to create dishes I’ve recently acquired a taste for.

However, my recent forays into cooking Asian cuisine – plus my recent trip to Singapore, Bali and Malaysia - means I’m aware of how the food should taste, and how it shouldn’t. Quintessentially, South East Asian food should be spicy. It should zing in your mouth. It should be fresh, light, aromatic, sweet and sour, all at the same time. I’m not afraid of these flavours, so why should anyone else be?

A new South East Asian restaurant has opened in town. In a city saturated with South East Asian restaurants, East Street promises something that should buck the trend: alternative dishes hailing not just from Thailand but from places further flung, such as Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The food is sold as no-frills street food, a daring concept in a city that now prides itself on its burgeoning street food culture. I had high expectations.

East Street is a spin-off from the northern Tampopo chain, and the restaurant venue has been overhauled in an apparent attempt to distance itself. Neon signs hang from the ceiling, exposed pipes run the length of the restaurant and benches run the width. It’s light, airy, and there are interesting things to look at on the walls such as ticket stubs and flyers of well-known Asian sights. They proved a talking point between my partner and I as we reminisced about our recent trip to that much-loved-by-us corner of the world.

The menu is plentiful. Perhaps too plentiful. I ummed and ahhed my way through three separate waitresses before I made my mind up. I steered clear of the Sangsom rum and coke (cleverly served in a bucket with two straws and the option of a Red Bull shot, to emulate the Thai cult classic) because of shuddering bad memories of being violently ill in Thailand. I decided instead to try the Lemongrass Mule cocktail, a heady blend of vodka, ginger beer, fresh lime and lemongrass. It had a punch, which I needed and enjoyed in equal amounts.

Onto the food, and this is where my night, a night that had the potential to lift to an impressive crescendo, instead deflated. The menu had promise! It had spunk! It had everything I wanted in a South East Asian street food menu! So what went wrong?

The starters were outstanding. The Tampopo Platter - Vietnamese fresh rolls filled with vegetables, prawns and glass noodles; Japanese griddled Gyoza dumplings; Korean Bulgogi grilled beef served with Kimchi pickled salad; Thai coconut prawns; Malaysian satay (the best peanut sauce this side of Kuala Lumpur); and Tod Man Khao Pod corn fritters with a chilli dip – was great, inventive, fun, and the dips were packed full of flavour. But that’s where the fun stopped, unfortunately.

My main of Penang curry lacked the oomph of chilli that the two-chilli warning on the menu seemed to suggest. It promised to be one of the hottest curries they serve. I like my chilli, but there was nothing. It was cooked nicely, sure. The chicken was moist but the sauce was too creamy and stodgy for my liking. It was crying out for some fish sauce, some lime juice, some chilli, some something.

The Som Tam salad, a papaya salad and a favourite of mine, again lacked the necessary ingredients to lift it from a below-average dish. I was desperate to ask for some lime juice. And where were the dried shrimp, so important in the salad for flavour and texture? They just weren’t there. There wasn’t even the option of adding various seasonings from the table, as again, they were missing. All Asian restaurants offer fish sauce, soy and chilli sauce at the table; except East Street, it seems.

My partner was slightly more successful (or just less fussy) with his choice. His main of Ga Xao Xa Ot - Vietnamese stir fried chicken, carrot and green pepper - again lacked that crucial thud of chilli, but there was more flavour in it and it was altogether fresher and lighter and more similar to how Vietnamese food should really be.

I got the feeling I was being catered for as a Westerner, as someone not knowledgeable about South East Asia cuisine. And in a city so involved with Asian food, East Street was treating its customers with kid gloves. East Street is a squeeze of lime juice, a splash of fish sauce and a whole heap of chilli away from being the inventive, fun and interesting restaurant it could be.
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East Street Opening Hours

Monday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm Friday: 12:00pm - 11:30pm
Tuesday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm Saturday: 12:00pm - 11:30pm
Wednesday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm Sunday: 12:00pm - 10:30pm
Thursday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm    

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Venue ID: 23000

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