If you’re familiar with Paddington at all, you know that the gold in the neighbourhood lies below the surface. Once you push past the trendy storefronts lining Oxford Street, the winding alleyways contain an abundance of unique boutiques and eateries. One such eatery is East London. Step inside The London Hotel, your friendly neighbourhood pub, and climb the wooden staircase in the back corner. In contrast to the laid-back atmosphere of the ground floor, East London offers dim lights, exposed brick and timber, and modern Chinese cuisine with a healthy twist.
After examining the several banquet options, but we opted to pick and choose from the menu. To my date’s delight, several of the dishes were available slightly tweaked to suit her vegetarianism, allowing her to sample a broader range of flavours than the usual range of meatless dishes. The Bang Bang Chicken (with the chicken swapped out for tofu) was our favourite of the main dishes. The ginger and sesame flavours were held together beautifully with the right amount of chilli, and the peanuts added an extra dimension of crunch throughout. We also tried the XO noodles with tofu (usually with king prawn). The snow peas and asparagus were cooked just enough to retain a satisfying crispness- though it was still served using fish sauce, so vegetarians might want to steer clear.
Although the mains were good, the flavours which really stood out to me came from elsewhere. The pickled shiitake mushrooms pack a delicious, tangy punch. First bite makes you feel like the small portion couldn’t possibly be enough, but they’re definitely best consumed as a condiment and in the end we couldn’t finish them. The coconut sago pudding was also a winner. I’ve always loved the creaminess of the coconut with the hint of salt. This was offset by the fresh sweetness of mango and lychee, and the mint and toasted almonds both freshened and deepened the flavours. Not to mention, it all came out served on black crockery, guaranteed to make your Instagram photos pop.
With options for a larger communal table, or more intimate booths, East London should be high on your list for both group dinners and date nights.
Liv S. is a creature of warm weather and negronis. Her interests include dinner, trying new things, and triple utterances. Follow her frolics on @callmememphisjones.