East meets west at Paddington’s East London
Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street is the newest edition to the London Hotel, East London. Not already acquainted? I invite you to climb the tight staircase of this humble pub and familiarise yourself with Paddington’s latest dining hot spot.
Jack Steer’s (ex China Diner and Chin Chin) 80 seater restaurant is profuse with comfortable little nooks and crannies. Around one corner is a cluster of more intimate dining rooms. Make a short turn and you will enter the main dining area, where I am ushered. Booths and larger tables accommodate both couples as well as a larger groups.
My date and I are soon met by a friendly waitress who recommends a round of drinks. We choose the Samurai Spritz, an oriental take on the popular Aperol spritz. A generous slosh of Aperol, yuzu sake, grapefruit, prosecco and soda makes for a refreshing yet deceptively boozy drink.
As we wait for our food to arrive, we’re am intrigued by the room’s textural composition. Exposed brick walls juxtapose the raw wooden finishes and bottle green rendered concrete. Electrical wires run across the walls, powering the copper lights linked to each table. Warm light flood our booth, making for an intimate and cosy setting on this particularly cold winter’s night.
Our waitress soon delivers a bowl of pickled cucumbers, soaked in a garlic infusion. All I can manage to say is “wow!”. This is a mouthful so garlic intense it travels up your throat and out your nose. Our palates are well and truly cleansed and ready for the first course, although my date may want to shuffle down slightly.
For entree we have the kingfish sashimi, served with puffed quinoa, crispy wonton chips, coriander and soy. I relish the cooling effect this meal has in the wake of a spice laden menu. The puffed quinoa and crispy wontons also offer a welcomed crunchy contrast against the fleshy kingfish.
The wontons ($16) are a must-try. Bug meat, prawn, chilli and Sichuan pepper are all wrapped in a dumpling pastry jacket, creating a deliciously meaty morsel. Each bite comes dripping in chilli oil, which for a spice lover like myself, is welcomed.
On this particular night we request the ‘Bang Bang Chicken’ ($18). The chicken is shredded and coated in a ginger, sesame and chilli sauce with roasted peanuts. It doesn’t take long to understand why its called ‘bang bang’. The Sichuan peppers quickly trigger a tingling, numbing sensation, enveloping my lips and tongue. Thankfully the addition of sliced cucumber cools my mouth right down, making the consumption of this main an addictive venture.
Don’t let any history of nan’s boiled brussel sprouts stop you from ordering the Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts ($12). They are roasted in a garlic, ginger and chilli paste infusion and topped with slithered almonds. The earthy, spicy, nutty notes in this dish represent a delicious triptych of inherently Asian flavours.
The wine list features all Australian wines including those from the Adelaide Hills, Barossa and the Arras in Tasmania. Although it is tempting to order red wine on a chilly winter’s night, I would strongly recommend opting for a crisp glass of white. It will compliment the pungency and spice of your meal and the liberal use of garlic and chilli peppers.
Somewhat disappointingly, this menu does not have a dessert option. Steer explains that it is not best way to finish a Chinese meal. Instead, complimentary fresh fruit is offered as a final palette cleanser.
East London is a contemporary diner’s delight. From the stemless glassware and charcoal stained plates to the fresh, aromatic menu, this restaurant exudes modernism. I urge you to challenge your preconception of grease laden Chinese cuisine and enter East London’s vibrant new terrain.
East London, The London Hotel
Open Tues-Thurs 6pm-9.30pm; Fri-Sat 6pm-10pm; Sun 12pm-8pm
85 Underwood Street, Paddington
02 9331 3200
If you like going out in Paddington be sure to check out our Cheap Eats Guide to Paddington.