Yes, the tiny and simply furnished E11 dining room is back again, Wednesday to Sunday evenings, from today (Feb 16th): not only East London’s worst kept secret, it’s on the verge of even greater cult status by dint of its extended Covid dine-in closure.
It’s already been reviewed in most national newspapers, and won consecutive Time Out awards – most recently their restaurant of the year, despite it only operating as a takeaway last year.
A memorable brush with uber-fame was in late 2019 when The Guardian published a feature in which twenty of Britain’s top chefs each chose a “secret gem or neighbourhood hideaway”. Erchen Chang, co-founder of Bao and Xu, name-checked E11’s pared-back little BYO.
“This is a neighbourhood Thai restaurant that’s cheap and fun and refreshing,” he said here, “and the food is just pure tasty…I went a couple of months ago with a big group and we ordered the whole blackboard menu. My favourite dishes were the clam with garlic, chilli and basil; the jungle curry crab, which was really dirty and hard to eat (you have to suck on the crab); and boat noodle soup which had that really good medicinal taste from dried roots that’s hard to find in London…There’s not much other decoration, but I think that makes the food stand out.”
And it goes without saying that many locals may head-noddingly agree. We only succeeded in booking a single table-for-two in the last six months of 2019 (despite calling repeatedly on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays). Maybe we were just unlucky; probably not quite organised enough, too.
On that last visit, pictured here, we did however tear through some classics from head chef-owner Sirichai Kularbwong (his mother Thelma is front-of-house): to start with, some goong sarong (fried prawns) and a super-warming Tom Yum (pictured above) with chicken, its spicy broth sour with citrusy notes of lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal.
Yet as Chang says, it really is all about that handwritten specials board: highlights were flaky curry puffs of tender braised oxtail, and the signature Moo Krob (fried crispy pork belly chunks, pic above) with chilli and garlic. Chuck in prawn crackers, rice and a huge steaming pile of glistening greens (also pictured) – and we were beyond content.
So good luck and stand by your phones, should you wish to visit. And, whatever you do, don’t book and pull a no-show.