Where oh where is a group of right going to get a table for dinner in Paddington the day the Wallabies play England? The shiny new East London is where.
The London in Paddington has had a number of pop ups above it – most recently Chur Burger – but now, there seems to be a restaurant-in-residence, East London. East London is the brainchild Jack Steer and is deliberately meant to be a high-end Chinese restaurant, something that’s a little bit difficult to find in Sydney.
A group of us were going to the rugby and (after much deliberation) decided we’d head out to Paddington before the game (because we never go there). Knowing how busy it was going to be, we wanted somewhere we could book and we were pretty surprised to find we could get a booking at East London. Must have been because it literally opened that week.
When we arrived we were greeted quickly. We had originally booked for seven and had an eighth friend join us – this seemed to be the end of the world for the staff. They seemed to think we had only booked for four people. We had to go back downstairs while they worked out how they could accommodate us. About fifteen minutes later, they’d managed to put together a table for us but they needed it back in two hours. Sweet! We had to get to the rugby anyway.
The staff were really friendly. One of our friends had a shellfish allergy and they were fine to go to the kitchen to check what they could do for him. Unfortunately, the response was “just the steak”. Everything else had oyster sauce in it. So, “just the steak” for him and a bunch of shared dishes for us.
The dining room was pretty empty when we arrived. It still feels quite Paddington.
To be honest, I felt for the staff. When we went downstairs, you could barely move the pub was so packed. There were a lot of people wandering upstairs looking for Chur Burger and the ding room was obviously full. There were run off their feet.
But the first dish arrived pretty quickly. First up, wontons filled with prawns and bug meat sprinkled with crushed chilli. There were absolutely gorgeous. They were plump and full of flavour. We think the sauce was a combination of soy and sesame – really delightful little starter.
The next dish that arrived was the crispy duck with pickled cucumber and five spice. We all sort of looked at the dish for a little while without starting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we’d ordered quite a few mains and we were wondering if they were all about to come out together and secondly, our poor friend with the shellfish allergy hadn’t had any food yet. We checked if they were bringing the steak and they said it was coming.
After about 15 minutes we all gave in and started in on the duck. It was beautifully cooked though the skin wasn’t crispy. I loved the pickled cucumber which was slightly sour and went really well with the duck. But quickly the dish was gone (literally, one piece of duck each) and we were wondering if that just a starter as well (or if it was a main, had we ordered enough?!?)
The next dish was the char sui or BBQ pork. Again, it was another small dish where each person got one piece of meat each (minus our non shellfish eating friend) but again, it was delicious. The sauce was sticky and sweet and now we started to wonder where the rice was as it would have been great to pour the leftover sauce over a little mound of white rice.
We also ordered another pork dish, which was like a a sang choi bao. It was crispy pork belly served with chilli sauce and wrapped in butter lettuce. It was yummy! I loved the coating on the outside of the pork skin – full of chilli, cumin and lip tingly Sichuan pepper.
The food began to speed up now and more and more dishes arrived but still no sign of the steak dish, the one dish that our friend with the allergy could eat. We checked again – again, we were told it was coming.
The three flavoured eggplant was definitely a hit. Stir-fried eggplant on top of pork mince and coriander leaves that you have you to mix together at the table. I could have eaten this dish for days and it definitely reminded me of the mazesoba that I had in Japan.
The fried rice (finally – there was a scramble for the last piece of char sui and the remaining sauce), stir fried green and kung-pao Brussel sprouts.
Everyone knows that I’m currently having a love affair with brussel spouts and these were definitely some of the best out there! Kung-pao chicken isn’t popular in Australia and doesn’t really feature on our Chinese menus but the sauce is a mix of vinegar, soy, dry Chinese wine and chilli. These brussel spouts were simply amazing and I really need to work out how to make these at home.
But now, something incredibly awkward happened. Everyone was getting full but still the non-shellfish dish hadn’t arrived. We’d made sure the waitress knew that dish was for one specific person on the table who wouldn’t be able to eat any of the other food.
Then to make it even more awkward, they came up to the table to remind us that they would need the table back in ten minutes!!! Ooops. We pointed out that we were still waiting on one dish (dan dan noodles) and our friend with the shellfish allergy who could only eat one dish STILL HADN’T RECEIVED HIS FOOD! The waitress said she would see what she could do but they would need the table back in ten minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, the steak dish arrived! Yay!
To be honest, it wasn’t really to my taste. The sauce was really heavy and quite spicy. It completely covered up the taste of the mushrooms and the steak. It was really nice that our friend let me have a taste but it really wasn’t for me and I happily tucked into the dan dan noodles which were full of tofu and vegetables!
No sooner had the final dishes hit the table but the bill did as well and a friendly reminder that they needed the table back five minutes ago so if we could hurry with our final dishes…
But, on nights like this, you need to make sure you bring your A-Game. I couldn’t really believe how long it took them to get around to our order and the length that it took for food to come out given that they wanted the table back. Originally, I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it in this post but talking to other people who have been there since and they’ve had the same experience on quiet nights. Ot oh!
Go for the food. It’s great. Expect the service to be rubbish.
85 Underwood Street,
+61 2 9331 3200