New Loves, Traditional Flavours
Street food, burgers and multicoloured ice creams are all very well but, if you fancy a delicious change, make your way to Burmese newbie Lahpet for a flavoursome, spice-filled feast
Review by Izzy Ashton
London is a multicultural, international foodie heaven with cuisines from across the globe jostling to grace the city’s shores with their delicacies. We’ve had breakfast bacon naans go mainstream thanks to Dishoom; mile-long lunchtime queues for bowls of raw fish thanks to a new-found love of Hawaiian Poke, and the madness of Bubblewrap’s Hong Kong waffles that continue to dominate our Instagram feeds.
London has had little experience of the delights of Myanmar (Burma) but it was Dan Anton’s stall, Lahpet, at Maltby Street Market that shook up the scene. And now, as many others have before it, that stall has become a permanent feature in London Fields, bringing the wonders of this untapped Asian cuisine to our Western taste buds.
Created by the partnership of Burmese chef Zaw Mahesh and Dan, who has Burmese heritage, Lahpet is hidden away in an old garage in East London, tucked behind a busy road and relatively impossible to stumble across. Such is the design of the site that the tables spill out onto the road, the high ceilings playing host to bright green tendrils of hanging plants and globular glass orange-tinged lights.
Shelves adorn one wall laden with spice-filled jars, tin watering cans and baby pot plants. Small tables lie along each edge of the garage while larger, heavy wooden tables fill the space. On a soft summer’s evening, the easy breezy nature of Lahpet is ideal.
A quick perusal of the menu leaves us none the wiser so we leave our choices up to the wisdom of Dan, while we settle back with a bottle of the house red wine. Dan’s advice was invaluable, allowing us the beauty of not having to make a decision whilst letting us enjoy the element of surprise.
The feast started with a selection of fritters: sweet corn, tofu, kidney bean with ginger and shrimp, which was the stand-out of the bunch. Served with a tamarind dip, the strong flavours gave us an insight into what was to follow. The punchier ingredients and spices are a testament to the fact that Zaw imports all his indigenous ingredients directly from Myanmar.
The fritters were followed by Lahpet’s speciality, the tea leaf salad, a delightful melange of raw vegetables, tomatoes, sesame seeds and crispy slices of garlic topped with peanuts. The pickled tea dressing and crunchy bean mix made this dish a bizarrely brilliant, freshly delicate starter.
A fish chowder and pork and mustard curry followed, both carefully flavoured and softly spiced. The shrimp relish delivered the spice but is served on the side so that sensitive pallets can simply add as little or as much as takes your fancy.
Whenever I have the pleasure of reviewing a shiny new eatery, I always order the pudding and I am nearly always disappointed. There’s only so many brownies you can really eat before you conclude that yes, your mum’s will always come out on top.
But Lahpet’s poached bananas were heaven sent. Cooked in coconut milk then crisped with a jaggery outer layer, the bananas were served with coconut ice cream and burnt coconut flakes. It was the dish that kept on giving and that I ate in mouse-size mouthfuls to prolong the enjoyment. The lime and ginger ice cream added an extra sharp sweetness that complimented the sugary fruit.
As you may have deduced from previous pieces, as a steadfast South Londoner I don’t traipse East lightly. But for Lahpet’s offerings, I’d happily wedge myself onto the Central line to enjoy its delights.
Enquiries: Lahpet, 5 Helmsley Place, London, E8 3SB/ 0203 883 5629/ firstname.lastname@example.org/ lahpet.co.uk