Thursday, 22 December 2011

Restaurant Review: East Street

Pan-Asian fusion is a term which penetrates with a deep sense of reluctance. How does the latest attempt pan out? This is my review of the new East Street in Fitzrovia for Scout London.

Effectively bunging a number of eastern Asian cuisines onto one menu, it’s easy to see why East Street has come in for some criticism amongst bloggers who’d rather not have the best part of a continent amalgamated into one confused being.

Perhaps this is a particularly Londony point of view. After all, we’re spoilt by having authentic versions of virtually every cuisine imaginable on our collective doorsteps. East Street comes from the owners of popular Northern chain Tampopo (yep, they obviously saw the film) but an attempt to open a branch in Fulham recently was less successful. All credit to their tenacity, as they’ve reworked the concept to return with a new venue, a new name and new decor in a bid to earn some London love. The menu, however, has not changed one iota.

We’re inclined to be less harsh on the pan-Asian perspective than others have been. The menu does clearly separate countries into their own sections rather than lumping them all together, and even includes a map showing the origins of the different dishes. There’s also evidence of some thought being put into restricting the offerings to those that wouldn’t seem too out of place sitting alongside each other on a table.

 Both the proof and the problem, however, is in the pudding. Having tried a selection of dishes, we’re left far from excited. A Thai Panang curry lacks a certain oomph which we’re used to, and isn’t particularly generous on the beef front, either. A Singaporean Nonya chicken & lime curry is similarly lacklustre, being less creamy and less punch-packing than we’d have liked.

Some of the small dishes fare better, with coconut breadcrumbed prawns proving pretty moreish and a good take on the Vietnamese rice roll being offered. A fun selection of classic cocktails given an Asian twist and a vivid decor that echoes bustling market streets also adds to the appeal, but we’re not sure that this is enough to lure us back.

Set just off Oxford Street in Fitzrovia, East Street is well placed for a flurry of lunch trade, and if the other option is Sainsbury’s or Pret then you’ll find a refreshingly fine lunch at a very fair price. It’s when you compare it to the host of Asian options scattered around the area that the offer becomes less appealing.

Maybe someone needs to tell the owners that us Londoners can cope with a bit of spice?

East Street, 3-5 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HJ 

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