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Lahpet – The kind of place that you feel cool just knowing about
September 21, 2017
Located on an obscure little backstreet in the depths of London Fields, Lahpet is the kind of place that you feel cool just knowing about. Yet, unlike so many of the trendy dining experiences that have popped up in these neighbourhoods, this little Burmese restaurant is completely worth the hype.
When we arrive, the restaurant’s humming with people. It’s a bright, open-plan space with rustic wooden tables, stools, hanging plants spilling over their pots, jars of curious pickled ingredients and ambient lighting. It has the laid-back atmosphere of a friend’s kitchen. Dan Anton, one of the owners, drifts around the room, greeting dinners. “Have you tried Burmese food before?” he asks us and we both shake our heads. “In that case, are you happy for me to make some recommendations?” We nod and he disappears with our menus. Zaw, the Burmese chef and other owner is the mastermind behind the menu and he’s done it well. It’s concise with only a few options for each course so as not to be overwhelming and beautifully designed on a single sheet of cream paper.
The service is incredibly quick. We’ve barely sipped our wine (the Lahpet red – a French Merlot – Myanmar isn’t known for it’s vineyards) before Dan’s back with armfuls of small plates: “All my favourites”, he smiles. We start with the selection of fritters: sweetcorn, tofu, and shrimp and watercress served with a zingy tamarind dip. They’re deep-fried and deliciously crispy, accompanied by the tea-leaf salad (lahpet thonk), which sounds unappealing if you imagine a plate of wilting tea leaves like we did, but it’s one of the real highlights: an extremely tasty, crunchy, tangy mix of pickled tea leaves (imported from Myanmar), red and white cabbage, sliced chillies, dried shrimp, peanuts and bright red heirloom tomatoes.
For the main course we choose our own selection, which Dan nods along with, making a polite suggestion that we order the braised aubergine as a side instead because “it’s good, but you really need to try the prawns.” When the food arrives, we’re grateful for the tip. The aubergine is tender and rich, but the king prawn curry (Bazun Hin) is the show stopper. The prawns are fat and juicy, not dried out like they so often are in this kind of dish, and the sauce is spicy enough so that you get a kick without losing the character of the flavours. Our fingers are stained dark red after frantically tearing off the tails and we guiltily lick them clean like children caught with a tin of condensed milk. The hake with burmese masala is one of the more modern plates on the menu served with charred lime and lemongrass rosti. It’s a more delicate choice, but also superb and for an added punch, we adventurously order a small pot of fiery Balachaung (a dry relish of fried onions, shrimp, garlic, ginger & red chillies) to go along with it. “Oh! Interesting texture,” my dining partner exclaims.
There’s the choice of poached banana with jaggery (palm sugar) crumble and coconut or scoops of lime and ginger ice cream for desert, but reluctantly, we’re unable to squeeze anything else in. Still, we’re amongst the last to leave when our candle’s burnt down to the bottom of it’s wick and the waiters are standing around pretending that they’ve still got things to do.
It’s rare and exciting when every course of a menu is as exceptional as the next. Lahpet might just be our new favourite place to dine in East London.
For more, visit Lahpet online.
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