What's the draw:
Around the back of a narrow street in Hackney, in a reclaimed warehouse built into the side of London Fields railway, Lahpet is a prime example of how food enterprises can transform London's disused spaces. Even on a Tuesday night, locals are queuing out the door, peeking in to see if there's a free corner on the long communal table or at the candle-lit bars that run around the white-washed edges of this bright, leafy space. A few seats spill out onto the sun-soaked street, but inside, under the hanging jungle vines near the spicey, smokey smell of the open kitchen, is where you really want to be.
What to drink:
The food might be all Burmese-inspired, but when it comes to refreshments, it's London's drinks producers that are allowed to shine. Wine from Borough Wines (by the glass and the bottle), beers from Modern Beer Company and One Mile End Brewery, and coffee from Maltby Street Market stall Beanbag populate the menu. If it hadn't been two hours shy of bedtime, we would have jumped at the chance to try Beanbag's cold-brew, peanut-infused coffee, but instead we sampled One Mile End's Tinker Cuss – a rye IPA infused with Cambodian kampot peppercorns that held its own against the rich smokiness of our lamb and lahpet main.
View on Instagram
What to eat:
Lahpet is Burmese for fermented tea leaves, and, unsurprisingly, there's plenty of it on the menu. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, because you have to start with the split pea shan tofu fritters. When it comes to these deep-fried golden triangles, you don't have to be vegetarian to appreciate how their crisp exterior holds for just a second before melting on your tongue. It's a complimentary conflict of texture, that only gets even better if you happened to have gone for the gin thohk salad (jammed full of crunchy, citrus-laced veg and puffs of deep fried beans), too. Now that we've covered the starters, it's back to the tea leaves. Get your first taste with Lahpet's signature salad, the lahpet thohk, and if the sweet and sour tamarind-laden taste pickles your fancy, then go one step further and order the slow-cooked pulled lamb with scorched lahpet and the nutty house rice that's laced with sweet yellow peas. The charred leaf and steamed runner beans lift the rich, gamey meat, bringing forward a smokey, dark umami depth to the dish. Burmese flavours seem to be fairly new to London, but Lahpet is a great crash-course in a once-neglected cuisine.
Mains from £10, wines from £3.60 by the glass. 5 Helmsley Place, E8 3SB; lahpet.co.uk