This new Covent Garden joint is one of a handful of restaurants in the city specialising in the deep and complex flavours of Burmese food. Starting life as a Maltby Street food stall from part-Burmese founder Dan Anton and head chef Zaw Mahesh, it blossomed into a London Fields pop-up before quickly expanding into a permanent Shoreditch space in 2018 and now, finally, hitting jackpot with this gleaming new 100-seat spot in the The Yards.
The interiors, with exposed brass fittings and blond-wood furniture, are reminiscent of a blandly upscale Scandi-inspired juice bar – more low-key hangout than romantic date-night spot – so thank God the food more than delivers.
Things kicked off with a trio of salads, including its now-famous lahpet thoke – pickled tea leaves shot through with shredded cabbage and the deeply aromatic notes of dried shrimp. It was followed up with grilled aubergine, cooked to silky, caramelised falling-apart heaven, with a smoky aroma that contrasted beautifully with a sprinkle of gently toasted peanuts. In fact, most of the food here has more funk than a Bruno Mars song – a masala hake featured a hefty chunk of fish perched prettily in a sea of glossy red curry, and tasted like a bright slingshot of unctuous spice.
Most of the food here has more funk than a Bruno Mars song
Rakhine mohinga, the restaurant’s star dish of fish noodle soup, is made from fermented fish paste and featured charred squid bouncier than a Tresemmé ad. I was also treated to a prospective menu dish called pon yin gyi, a fermented bean paste the inky black of a night sky, which I spread on rice and which tasted like the swoonworthy cousin of the rich candlenut-based rempehs characteristic of Malaysian cooking.
If this is all sounding a little too punchy and rich for you, remember that depth is the best friend of flavour and is meant to be savoured. In any case, Lahpet knows when to mix things up with pleasing textural twists, so the pon yin gyi was topped with crunchy radish and its salads garnished with peppery cracker slices and twice-fried broad beans. Only the andaman ceviche was a disappointment, thanks to its stringy watercress garnish and oversalted sea bass.
Thankfully, things got back on form with a cheffy duo of desserts, with a sweet cassava cake that tasted of sunshine and cream, topped with a refreshing jackfruit sorbet. The banana parfait was an unexpected delight too, with chips of crisp banana biscuit lurking in the ice cream (if I were being picky, I would have left out the berry-based sauce that arguably overpowered the banana).
With flavours like this, though, I’m willing to forgive the odd bum note. Service was enthusiastic and always accommodating, even going so far as to check the spelling of that bean paste with the chef to make sure I got it right. I’d come back for that and the fish noodle soup alone.
The vibe: A relaxed, low-key haunt for anybody looking to escape the Covent Garden hordes.
The food: Punchy Asian flavours from a cuisine that’s criminally underrepresented in the UK.
The drink: A refreshingly inventive cocktail list featuring betel leaf, turmeric and pandan.
Time Out tip: The tangy, peanut-y green tomato salad is enough to convert any leaf-hater.