The Lady Bites wouldn’t have happened had it not been for an ex-web designer friend of mine, known as Bertie Wooster (or sometimes Dirty Bertie thanks to his tent-creeping tendencies), who generously gave up his time to help a technical numb-nut like me get to grips with the finer points of HTML.
He refused to take payment for his services, so I instead offered to take him out for dinner at a restaurant of his choice. No Gourmet Burger Kitchen for our Bertie, he chose E&O and so, last night, with The Heid and The Worms for company, that’s exactly where we went.
E&O is a Pan-Asian restaurant and cocktail bar that is a long-loved stalwart of Notting Hill. Many a time have I passed by, gazing wistfully at the trendy crowd – a mix of glossy locals and upmarket Euros – who frequently spill out into the street come a warm evening, clasping their lychee martinis and gossiping. Several people have told me how much they love this place, but in the seven years that I’ve lived in this area, I’ve never once been in.
We met early, taking refuge from the rain in the moody, low-lit panelled cocktail bar, where I was delighted to see a Pisco Sour on the menu. I drank this frothy lemon tipple all the way round Argentina on a two week holiday there a couple of years ago and recall it fondly. This one wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, but things always taste better on holiday and at least it was made properly with egg whites. Becca’s cocktail was better: a Tango in Lao, which comprised Appleton v/x rum, apricot liquor, lime and lychee juice, served straight up – she only allowed me one sip and I’m struggling to say more other than it was good and I was jealous.
E&O operates the rather tiresome double-sitting policy that so many restaurants have now (though I do understand why) so we hurried through at 8pm to make full use of our two hour time slot. We commenced proceedings with a delectable spread of steamed and fried dumplings (dim sum) plus a sweet potato and baby aubergine tempura with orange ponzu, E&O’s famous chilli salt squid and a peppered tuna sashimi with miso aioli. The menu rather helpfully offers a guide to words you might not recognise (a gyoza is a thin-skinned dumpling; a ponzu is a citrus-based sauce) so we didn’t flounder. Meanwhile, the waiter made sure that there was five of everything thus avoiding any chopstick duels over the last pork dumpling.
This was a mighty fine starter. Each dim sum was fresh, piping hot and cooked to perfection with a myriad of spiced and fatty flavours bursting satisfactorily from their delicate skins; meanwhile the batter of the sweet potato tempura was light and crisp and the tuna sashimi as artfully presented as they were good to eat. We could have cheerfully ordered more of these and made this our dinner for the evening and, in some ways, I wish we had as the mains – though good – were on the small side, particularly my sea bass en papillote, which comprised six mouthfuls of tender, sweet and delicately spiced fish that I could have done with a lot more of.
We were all still hungry, so ordered puddings. I thought I’d found my dream pudding: a chocolate and coffee leigeois, which the waiter described as coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce, cream and coffee poured over the top, but – sumptuous as this was – it was also a little sickly (surprise, surprise) and I ended up with a case of food envy over the boys’ ginger cheesecake, which was dense and fragrant and sweet, but not overtly so.
Finally full, we ordered the bill. This came to around £55 a head and included cocktails and a bottle of wine, so not too bad really, and when you consider all Bertie Wooster’s geeky work making this blog look pretty, positively cheap!
* It was too dark in E&O to take any pics so I asked the restaurant to send me some of its own images. Unfortunately, it didn’t have any of the ginger cheesecake, so I’ve had to make do with the above ice-cream snap. Sorry!
14 Blenheim Crescent,
T: 020 7229 5454
The Eastern & Oriental Cookbook by Will Ricker is available to buy from amazon.
PS – Bertie Wooster has been added to my Cast of Characters