Without a shadow of a doubt, Asian cuisine tops my culinary list. I would go as far as saying that my love for Asian food is rather unconditional. It all started many years ago in London, with frequent visits to the likes of Soba (no longer in existence), Wagamama and Busaba.
I deepened my passion for Thai food when I lived in Sydney and after that, when I spent two months travelling around South East Asia. Some of the best food, as anyone who has been to this part of the world knows, can be found in local food markets and in small family run restaurants.
I spent two months travelling around various countries, sampling local delicatessens and slowly reprogramming my taste buds to tolerate the high levels of heat (and probably killing off a few taste buds too). I am not ashamed to say that there were many days when I would have fried rice for breakfast…as they say, “when in Rome”.
The top of my travel list, and not just because of the food, has long ago been claimed by Burma. Before all the backpackers and gap year students move in, I want to explore this still unspoiled country and enjoy it for its raw beauty it has to offer. And as luck would have it, I was recently invited to Lahpet, a Burmese restaurant in Hackney, which also happens to be one of its kind in London (and only one of three Burmese restaurants in the UK). Not exactly Burma, but as I later found out, as close as one can get to it without encountering jetlag.
Lahpet, committed to serving authentic Burmese cuisine, found its London home earlier this year in a little industrial cul-de-sac just off London Fields. Owners Dan Anton and Zaw Mahesh, also Lahpet’s Head Chef (of Corinthia Hotel, Daylesford Organic, Milos) both with Burmese roots, started their venture at Maltby Street Market just last year, before moving to this permanent location in Hackney.
Dan said: “Over the last decade South East Asian cuisine has proliferated in London but Burmese food has lagged behind by comparison. I think this is because of a lack of Burmese nationals living anywhere outside of Burma, due to the restrictions imposed on the nation under its oppressive, now waning, military rulers. The situation in Burma is still complex but thankfully it is improving and Burma is increasingly opening up to the Western World. With a significant increase in media coverage and a swiftly growing tourism trade there is a greater buzz surrounding Burmese cuisine than ever before.”
One of the few places in London that still takes bookings, we arrived just as the diners started rolling in. The restaurant was fully booked that evening and as Dan confirmed, they are full capacity pretty much every night.
The restaurant’s front windowed doors were wide open, letting the smell of summer in and the chatter from the restaurant spill onto the street.
Lahpet’s décor was simple, yet warm, cosy and intimate. We sat at a long sharing table by the sidewall, with still enough privacy and space without having to worry about dipping one’s elbows into fellow diner’s plate.
We started our feast sampling all the starters on the menu, with Shan Tofu and Shrimp & Watercress being in particular delicious. The tofu was made in-house from scratch using split peas and was like no other tofu I’ve tasted before.
We shared a generous portion of Lahpet’s signature dish – Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet means ‘tea’ in Burmese). It was utterly delicious, full of flavour and fresh ingredients.
My lips needed extinguishing after the huge portion of fiery Hake Masala – but my God was it worth it! My friend polished his plate of Pork & Mustard Green Curry with equally as much love and enthusiasm.
The wine selection at Lahpet was rather sophisticated and it was carefully selected from Borough Wines to complement each dish. I very much enjoyed my glass of the Hungarian ‘Prince Damas Dry Tokaji’ and ‘Liv Vinho Verde’ from Portugal.
We couldn’t possibly leave without sharing a portion of the ‘Poached Banana’ dessert and the ‘Fruit Platter’, despite slightly struggling for breath.
We walked into Lahpet lightly and had to be rolled out of it just two and half-hours later, with gluttony written all over our faces.
The whole evening was wholly enjoyable from start to finish and the food, without exaggeration, was one of the best I’ve ever had. It truly felt like home away from home. Burma – I am coming for you.
- For bookings and more information go to www.lahpet.co.uk or call 020 3883 5629. Lahpet, 5 Helmsley Place, London E8 3SB.
- Lahpet is also launching a monthly Supper Club that will showcase a selection of cuisine of Myanamar, starting next Thursday (17th August 2017). Priced at £35 per person, tickets can be purchased here.