Wok-fried noodles, steamed rice dishes, fragrant soups, when it comes to Asian food, House of Coco want it all. We were invited to dine at the South East Asian restaurant, Ekachai, to discover the flavours of the Far East. Kayleigh Lavery went along to find a little bit of Asia in leafy South West London. Chopsticks at the ready.
Ekachai – a popular Thai name – specialises in the overlapping street style dishes of Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong and although it might not be well-known to many, it really deserves a spot on the gastronomic map for its authenticity alone. With an aim to provide the real taste of Asia in a relaxed environment, Ekachai makes the ideal lunch break spot or a casual dinner without the fuss.
Walking into the Wandsworth branch we instantly sensed the street style atmosphere with the bustling open kitchen and aromatic smells. The pan-Asian concept has also stepped away from the obvious modern décor that most restaurants favour and has opted for the use of natural materials that mirror the Far East, such as timber, bamboo, rope and reclaimed wood.
We took seats on simple stools at a distressed wooden table covered in paint splashes; it felt like we were amongst the hustle and bustle of a street food market in Penang rather than above a busy shopping centre in London, but this is the beauty of Ekachai. With the flagship branch in London’s Liverpool Street and restaurants located at the Selfridges stores in Birmingham and Oxford Street, Ekachai is an escapism from busy city life and a step into a colourful, culinary world of exotic flavours.
The menu is seasonal and based on ingredients which are available. An extensive list of wok-fried rice and noodle dishes, curries, soups and little plates make it hard work deciding what to order. Starters include light and fluffy pork steamed buns to classic Thai fish cakes, whilst laksa soups, Indonesian rendang curries and steaming hot noodle dishes make up just a handful of the mains on offer.
Once we’d placed our order, the busy kitchen and the attentive staff made for light entertainment (a bottle of Singha beer whilst you’re waiting is optional). We were mesmerised by the chefs making the traditional Asian dumplings, rapidly folding and crimping the pastry as if second nature before starting on the next one.
We ordered a few light bites including the prawn and crab siu mai dumplings (as recommended by the ever-so delightful branch manager Eddy), which were full of texture and incredibly moreish. Served in the traditional bamboo steamer baskets, a tangy satay dipping sauce complemented the fish flavours. The pan-friend pork wor tip fried dumplings with a ginger and Chinese vinegar dip are also a tasty small plate: fresh and soft on the inside with a slight crisp outer. You are pre-warned before ordering that dishes can come at different times because of how they are cooked.
For meat lovers, the roast duck and BBQ pork is a winner hands down. A tower of juicy traditional Cantonese style roast duck and succulent pork slices is served on a bed of steamed rice and pak choi, with a sweet but not overpowering BBQ sauce.
If you prefer noodles over rice, the char kway teow dish is everything you want from a noodle dish. A heap of Penang inspired flat rice noodles are cooked with egg, chilli, soy and beansprouts and pack a punch in the way of heat. The helping of large, juicy prawns makes the dish even more delicious.
Most Asian restaurants don’t offer many fancy desserts like us Brits, but banana fritters and roti canai (a Malaysian sweet fried pancake) are there for the taking if you still want to sample more Asian delights.
At Ekachai, the focus is definitely on the food with the aim to provide a truly Asian dining experience. Delicious fresh flavours, generous portions and enthusiastic staff definitely make this South East Asian concept a restaurant to remember and revisit, and with a price tag to smile about we’re sure we’ll be returning soon.
To view the restaurants’ menus and to find out more about Ekachai, visit their website here.