An unforgettable wild ride at Lahpet

Restaurant offering regional dishes from Burma is a fast-paced, thoroughly modern place to eat out

Thursday, 14th April — By Tom Moggach

Eating out lahpet

IT’S rare to find a menu that knocks you sideways – especially in a city like London. But Lahpet serves a modern twist on regional dishes from Burma, a cuisine that’s tricky to find here in the capital.

This new opening in Covent Garden is the second restaurant from a chap called Dan Anton, who began by “smashing out noodles and curries” from his street stall in south London. His father left Burma by boat in 1958, just before the military took the reins of power. His partner, Zaw Mahesh, was born in the north of the country before moving to the UK to work as a chef.

“Lahpet” translates as “tea”, an ingredient that is a star of the show. “They don’t just drink tea – they pickle it and use it in salads,” chuckles Anton, as he guides us through the menu.

The tea features in a salad with crunchy double-fried beans, shredded cabbage, sun-dried shrimp, chilli, tomato, peanuts and garlic oil – a startling mixture of textures and umami-rich flavours, unlike anything I had tasted before.

Creative salads are a definite strongpoint here. Others go big on pickled ginger and unripe green tomatoes.

“It’s a very savoury cuisine,” adds Anton. “Less flash frying and wok cooking than Chinese. More braising, slow cooking, lentils and pulses.”

This branch is located in a shiny new courtyard development in Covent Garden.

Neighbours include Dishoom and a cult pasta place from Milan called miscusi, where you pick-and-mix pasta shapes and sauces, adding “crunchy”, “creamy” or “tasty” toppings such as pistachios, ricotta and crispy pork cheek.

Lahpet West End spans two floors, with a décor that blends industrial and rustic. Picture walls of burnished bronze and trailing pot plants.

The restaurant was rammed on our visit – music pumping, cocktails flowing. This is a fast-paced, thoroughly modern place to eat out. Don’t book expecting a hushed, leisurely meal.

One cocktail is named Mar-Tea-Ni, described as a shake-up of pickled tea oil washed vodka, Noilly Prat, orange bitters and chilli oil.

We shared a platter of fritters: a dish that played with the angles of squares and triangles of deep-fried snacks made with tofu, split pea and sweetcorn with shallots, all dipped in a light tamarind sauce.

For a main, a curry of soured bamboo shoots, choy sum greens and fermented soy beans topped with thick slices of slightly dry pork belly, with a side of coconut rice.

In another dish, the chef fillets a whole bream then plunges both fillets and fish frame in the fryer, arranging both on a thick sauce of stewed tomatoes infused with mysterious spices.

I got hooked on their Belachaung, a condiment that I scattered over everything. This is a feisty blitz of fried dried shrimp, garlic, ginger and chilli.

With no points of reference, I can’t judge the authenticity of the cooking at Lahpet. But it’s a wild ride that I won’t forget.

Lahpet West End
21 Slingsby Place,
St Martins Courtyard, WC2E

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