In Review

Lahpet: A delicious crash-course in Burmese food

This Hackney hide-away is worth seeking out for its adventurous South-East Asian offering

In a foreign land a good guide can be worth their weight in gold - a fact that is just as true when trying out new cuisines closer to home.

Luckily for those visiting Lahpet, London's newest Burmese offering, co-owner Dan Anton is more than happy to lead you through the delights of this lesser-known fare.

Myanmar or Burma as it was once known, is one of the last prominent Asian countries with a rich and diverse culinary heritage that remains largely untapped in the Western world.

The country borders Bangladesh, Thailand and China, and its cuisine taking influences from all three. Anton believes the reason so few Brits have had any interaction with Burmese cuisine is simply due to the relative lack of Burmese migration over the years. But it's clear with Lahpet he's aiming to make the food and thereby both popular and accessible.

Lahpet is located at Tuck Shop on Helmsley Place, a communal work space by day and a restaurant in the evening. When we arrived on a mid-week summer's early evening, the place was already filling up and by the time we left we were picking our way through a heaving throng.

The restaurant takes its name from the pickled green tea leaves that are unique to the counry. To start, Anton suggests the Lahpet house salad, a dish focused on the pickled green tea leaves and dressed with dried shrimp and crispy garlic. Full of crunch and colour and fried through with broad beans and sesame seeds, it would be vibrant and rewarding even without the tea leaf itself, which is pickled in such a way as to produce an incredibly satisfying umami flavour.

Alongside the eponymous salad there is a selection of fritters, said to be a key accompaniment to any Burmese dinner. We were given one of each on offer - kidney bean and ginger, shrimp and watercress, sweetcorn and tofu, all accompanied by a rich tamarind sauce. The unanimous winner was the sweetcorn fritter with lashings of the sauce – unusually for what is essentially a deep-fried dish, it had a delicate combination of textures and flavours.

For mains, my dining companion and I were once again guided by Anton - who suggested we try one more traditional dish, a pork and mustard green curry, alongside something from the more contemporary end of the menu - a hake masala. Both were served with a traditional house rice.

The flaky white fish dashed lightly with lime and complemented by a thick lemongrass rosti was hearty without being too much for a summer's evening. While on the whole it's a mild dish, the soothingly rich flavour of the masala leaves a lasting impression. 

The pork is an undoubted star of the menu. Where often the neck is a relatively cheap and fatty cut of pork, Lahpet's slow-braised version was at once both succulent and sharp. Cooked with ginger and star anise there is just the right level of fire to the dish but the meat is tender and almost lamb-like in its consistency. 

Three flavours of ice cream are served – lime and ginger, banana and coconut and papaya – with even our sworn nemesis the papaya (often, in my experience, tasting like a mix of parmesan cheese and vomit) providing a delightfully refreshing conclusion to the meal.

Lahpet is an excellent choice in London's ever-growing food scene and a great crash-course in a soon-to-be-neglected-no-longer cuisine.

Lahpet, 5 Helmsley Place, E8 (020 3883 5629; lahpet.co.uk)

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