It is, though, far more welcoming and low-key than anything you’ll find in those back alleys, with a menu drawing equally from Korean, Japanese, Singaporean, Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine. It’s a curious concept that might suggest East Street is spreading itself too thinly, but it instead delivers pleasing variety perfectly suited to large groups taking up residence on one of its long benches.
THE GRUB: The breadth of choice feels a little overwhelming, but the food, overall, is excellent. Go heavy on the sides – they’re probably the most interesting. Highlights include the Korean bulgogi, which is marinated beef, and perfectly grilled Japanese gyoza – dumplings, to the unschooled.
If you like your Asian broths, the Singaporean laksa and the Vietnamese pho are old favourites, while the fresh Thai salads, fusing mint, lime and papaya, are top-notch. The noodle and stir-fry dishes might seem stock-standard, but are full of flavour, while the curries are packed with exotic spices but can veer toward stodginess. Still, reliable comfort food.
For dessert, the caramen chuoi ran – fried banana in breadcrumbs – is a delicious sugar rush and the Vietnamese coffee could be the best thing ever.
BEHIND THE BAR: There’s a brief but well-balanced selection of wines, ranging from £3.25 for a small glass to bottles starting at £14. Or choose from a selection of Asian beers, starting at £3.50 a bottle. Make sure you leave room for a cocktail, though – the Saigon negroni, basically a gin and lychee martini, at £6, is excellent.
BILL PLEASE: Starters from £4; mains from £7; dessert from £3.
VEDICT: There’s no shortage of Asian food in London but having it all under one roof – complemented by a fun, bustling atmosphere and eclectic decor – make East Street a winner well-placed to attract return custom.
3-5 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HJ
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Review: Tom Sturrock