Lahpet: A wonderful fusion of London and Burmese culture in Hackney
Boasting a rich and diverse culinary heritage, it’s no wonder Burmese cooking is becoming a rising trend amongst London’s assorted restaurant scene. Sharing ingredients with Thailand, and taking inspiration from the pungent flavours of India and China, menus are notoriously complex and intricately compiled to radiate warmth and variety. With dishes favouring vegetables, embracing pulses and laced with spice-stained meats and fish, each colourful plate is styled towards the more adventurous diner, and Lahpet has captured its unique essence wonderfully.
Having started out as a Maltby Street food stall known only to passing locals, Lahpet has thankfully found a more permanent home in Hackney’s Helmsley Place, and is attracting quite a crowd. Nestled amongst railway arches housing boutique coffee shops and bars, it’s an arty space that’s made more atmospheric by the rattling echoes of the overhead trains, and lingering passers by from the adjacent London Fields. Perhaps a far cry from what you’d expect of an authentic Burmese joint, owner Dan Anton, who is part Burmese himself, has created a wonderful fusion of London and Burmese culture here. Supporting the locality of the area, with One Mile End beers and East End lagers on offer, it is the menu and ingredients displayed that remain at the heart of this foodie heritage.
Selections of fritters are on offer to start, ranging from Mandalay (kidney bean and ginger), Shrimp and Watercress, and Tofu varieties. Deeply fried, the oiliness slightly dulls the range of flavours within, however, the complement of a thick tamarind dip gives a delightfully pleasant, twangy aftertaste. There are also impressive salads that are perfect to share, piled high and made prettily colourful thanks to the dynamic range of ingredients displayed. The Tea Leaf Lahpet Thohk is the signature salad to try, coming indulgently fermented, with the tingling of the leaves weaving its way through the lightness of pulpy tomato and crunchy red cabbage. Dashed with a crisp topping of peanuts and seeds, it’s an incredibly moreish taste that, although unfamiliar, is hugely surprising.
The mains, however, steal the show at Laphet, and see Burmese chef, Zaw Mahesh, produce his finest work. We first tried the Hake Masala (Ngar Hin), which was wonderfully presented, with the flaky white fish dashed lightly with lime and complemented by a thick lemongrass rosti. It’s a mild serving, but still laced with a soothingly rich flavour that leaves a bold impression. However, the Lamb & Lahpet (Thoe Tha & Lahpet) is perhaps a greater feat, displaying slow-cooked pulled lamb that comes perfectly succulent and wrapped in lightly pickled tea leaves. Garnished with sides of pea shoots and yellow pea house rice, these dishes are satisfyingly filling and heartily pungent.
The desserts at Lahpet are simple in comparison, but equally tasty, with the task of cooling and refreshing the palate.
Three flavours of ice cream are served – lime and ginger, banana and coconut and papaya – each giving needed refuge to the palate after what is a delightful roller coaster ride of adventurous dining.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Masters
To book a table at Lahpet, 5 Helmsley Pl, London E8 3SB, call 020 3883 5629 or visit the Lahpet website here.