There are two massive food fads happening in London right now: street food and East Asian food. East Street Restaurant in Rathbone Place twists them together for a restaurant experience like no other. Here, you’re transported to a generically buzzy, neon, dreamlike Asian street food haven (sans weird smells, bugs, rats, beggars and bad weather of all kinds.)
Despite the decor having been borrowed from eight Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and Korea) there’s an uncanny authenticity at East Street- you truly feel as though you’ve been teleported from London to “somewhere in Asia”, and are perusing the streets of a wondrous, foreign land. It’s unusual, it’s exciting and it’s fun, as is East Street’s menu.
Colour-coded for ease and enjoyment, you’re able to mix and match your fave eats from the East from noodle soups to coconutty curries, from spring rolls to satay dishes.
The Korean offerings include kimchi, chapchae and bulgogi, giving a brief introduction to the Korean flavours we so know and love. How could I opt for anything other than kimchi as a side dish? (my main dish was veggie Japanese yaki udon)
Yet this turned out to be a bad decision. East Street’s “kimchi” is nothing like what you’d find in Korea, nor in any London Korean restaurant. It’s unprepared and unfermented, so lacks depth of flavour, silky, stringy textures and a certain amount of love. Instead, it’s a bowl of cabbage with some sweet-ish sauce mixed in.
In a nutshell, what I loved about East Street was the ambience, the sights and sounds, the wonderful customer service, the descriptive menus, the anime films playing against the back wall, the Asian train announcements in the toilets, the vivid street signs, and generally being transported back to Asia for a couple of hours.
The food itself was somewhat hit and miss: hits were the Vietnamese Goi Cuon rice paper vegetable rolls starter and the Thai Nua Yang Manao salad. Misses included the kitchen having run out of a lot of meaty ingredients on the menu. Unfortunately though, the main miss was the soulless cabbage concoction that replaced the sour, fermented kimchi that I craved a hit of (my udon fell somewhere in between).
Yet this hasn’t been enough to put me off- in fact I’m considering spending my next birthday at East Street. Its heart and soul are firmly in the right place, and its proprietors obviously adore Asia as much as I do. It’s a unique, delightful restaurant that I’ll definitely revisit. It needs to master a new kimchi recipe before I can fully justify recommending it, though.
- East Street Restaurant is located @ 3-5 Rathbone Place, London W1T 1HJ
- The closest tube is Tottenham Court Road
- For full menu and info, check out the East Street Restaurant website