What: East Street, pan-Asian restaurant
Where: 3-5 Rathbone Place, London, W1T 1HJ (near Tottenham Court Road tube)
Price: £10-20 a head
3.5 out of 5 stars
East Street is probably the place that real pan-Asian foodies would despise. In fact, if you really were a fan of Asian food, you’d probably despise the term ‘pan-Asian’. Thankfully, I exist fairly high on the pan-Asian food ignorance scale, and thus entered East Street unclouded of judgment – after all, I love Wagamama, so what do I know?!
Nestled behind that particularly unpleasant corner of Fitzrovia, where Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street meet, East Street is all bright colours, hipster lift music and relaxed vibes. I imagine it’s the realisation of eating in a street in pan-Asia, the land of young beautiful people who like spice and ‘experiences’. The toilets manage to be both dark and yet luminous pink, with a Pan-Asian lady speaking in a loop over the speakers. I occasionally drift out of conversation with my dining partner because I’m watching the Manga film that’s screened via projector on the wall behind her head. We eat our dinners off a map of the world with fun facts about the food that is eaten in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and Korea, respectively. So far, so cool.
The service is adorable, friendly, chatty, gracious, plonking down what I believe is a palate-cleansing tea in front of us as we arrive. Prawn crackers follow shortly after. The menu is huge – as you’d expect delivering ‘authentic tastes’ from eight countries – but not overwhelming.
I chose the Korean Bulgogi to start – a surprisingly good rare beef salad, served with Kimchi (pickled cabbage) and a few somewhat anomalous little gem salad leaves. It’s light but satisfying and would, I daresay, make a good lunch. My partner went for chicken satay, which were apparently also up to scratch.
While the mains would be great for hungry diners; a wide range of stir fries, soup noodles, wok-fried noodles, rice dishes and the rather vague ‘sauce-based specials’, I had rather filled up on prawn crackers, and so opted for a salad. I soon realised this was an oversight – the Thai Yam Wun Sen had tasteless ‘spicy prawns’, the cold glass noodles more fascinating to the eye than to the palate and I could neither taste nor see the chilli, fresh lime or coriander.
Clearly, I should have just saved tummy room for one of the more substantial dishes, as my friend’s Pad Thai was enough to make her have cravings ever since.
All in all, a disappointing dinner was not enough to stop me from revisiting East Street – ok, so it’s not breaking any culinary boundaries, but good food, cheap and without being made to feel you’re being rushed out the door, is rare in Soho. I’ll be heading back for some more manga-infused Pan-Asian good times for under a tenner again soon.