I don’t know about you but whenever I exit Tottenham Court Road tube station famished and fed up of battling human traffic, I take the first side street I find to escape the hell for a brief moment. Now it just so happens that this side street (AKA Rathbone Place) is home to the perfectly marketed East Street, and like a hungry bee to sweet nectar, i’m hopelessly sucked in.
In my eyes, the sole purpose of Pan-Asian (or any) ‘street-food’ diner is to capture you when you’re starving beyond belief and easy to please. All diet rules are MIA and you’re desperate for a quick cheap fix. It happens us all, and East Street is certainly cashing in on the weak.
Their single dining room and open kitchen brilliantly represents a (cleaner) version of an Asian café (gap-year throwback) – glowing neon street art, bright dumpster furniture, abundant Korean street signs everywhere you look, even a Ghinli cartoon projected onto the back wall, long sharing mess tables (and smaller ones at the back for stranger-phobes like me). On first impressions it’s spot on; they’ve cracked the Asian vibe. You’ll even be served Redbush tea when seated (although who really wants to drink that?) Cue a round of Passionfruit Bellini’s.
Now, onto the food. Does it transport you to Asian streets as well as the décor? I will confidently say: no.
The menu features ‘best-of’ dishes from East Asia, although very ‘Londonised’ – Noodles with chicken, Noodles with broth, Noodles and salad, rice rice rice – chopstick food. Of course there’s no sour, salty, raw odds and sods which you’d genuinely find on the streets of Asia, because we’d all complain about that. And as we all know, if you can make an entire cuisine mainstream in London, you have yourself a thriving business (Wahacca, Wagamamas, Pizza Express), which is exactly what East Street is aiming for.
Feeling hungrier than bears emerging from hibernation we ordered a fair few dishes, culminating in a very fair judgment of the food standard.
EAST STREET PLATTER TO SHARE – Goi Cuon, Gyoza, Bulgogi, Coconut Prawns, Satay & Tod Man Khao Pod (£13.95). The sweet/spicy/peanut dips that accompanied these were tasty. Without them, there would barely be any taste at all. Too much grease, decorative points only here.
And then we shared a plethora of dishes:
MONKFISH MOLEE CURRY – monkfish cooked with coconut milk, turmeric, curry leaves, galangal, tamarind, green mango and cherry tomatoes (£13.95). This dish flaunts itself in front of your face because it is so GOOD LOOKING. Try it, and you’ll realise it’s a façade, it tastes of nothing. Not a single sodding thing. Disappointed, and still hungry. More Bellini’s on the way.
CHICKEN ABODO – Chicken thigh in a tangy sauce flavoured with peppercorns, garlic & bay leaf. Served with wok-fried broccoli and sweet potato chips (£10.50). This was slightly richer than the monkfish, far more enjoyable because of the chicken thigh used rather than breast, but it’s not going to leave you wanting more, and seriously who ever needs that much sticky rice. A smaller portion of higher quality rice would be welcomed. Sweet potato chips were a nice touch but broccoli – why?
Finally, the tables turned with these little side dishes which were damn excellent. They offered a far greater variety of flavor, crisp vegetables and a relief to have some texture. East Street have clearly been focusing efforts on the demand for the healthy dishes, and they succeeded.
GADO GADO SALAD – Chinese leaf, green beans, shredded carrots and beansprouts in a spicy peanut sauce, topped with fried onion flakes (£4.95)
YAM DTAENG GWA - Thai salad of cucumber, red onion, mint and coriander with ground dried shrimp (£3.25) (ground dried shrimp is the sawdust looking thing – innovative yes, but didn’t taste of much. What’s wrong with a real shrimp?)
Bottom line: I would go again if someone really wanted to, it’s absolutely fine. Most customers come away smiling, just don’t expect the real deal. For (on average) £20 a head, it’s not bad.