Two weekends ago, we capped off my best friend's hen weekend with the finest of Singaporean traditions: a good South-East Asian meal. This hadn't been on the cards initially, but as the best friend's fiancé was away, and as we were finally allowing her to go back to her home and her beloved car (the rest of us can't or don't drive), she suggested heading out to Cafe East in Surrey Quays for dinner.
We didn't mind. It's not the easiest place to get to from most parts of London, but if she was driving, who was I to disagree? Besides, the rest of my girlfriends seem to like the place, and that was good enough for me.
So off we went to Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, a place I used to frequent while I was in university many years ago, as I lived in the area. I don't think Cafe East was around while I was living there, although being a poor student, it's not as if I ate out all that often.
The place was quite crowded when we arrived, although we got a table pretty quickly. It probably took about 15 minutes for us to get a table for five.
We started off with the coconut cream drink my friend swore was "to die for", and was the main reason we had all been dragged to this part of East London in the first place. While the waitress serving us told us rather apologetically that the kitchen had run out of the green jelly (apparently my friends' favourite part of the drink), they took the risk and ordered it anyway, only to discovered that the green jelly was indeed still in good supply. I didn't try the drink. After a weekend of pure decadence, I had to go back to watching my weight.The meal proper began with with two orders of Vietnamese rolls. Each serving had nine mini-rolls, which resulted in a bit of a battle as there were five of us so one or more of us would end up eating less. Fortunately, my friend's boyfriend didn't like this (to a chorus of "why??" from my friends) and the battle was resolved. The sweet and tangy sauce which came with this was really nice, and is probably the main reason why I like Vietnamese food.
Pretty much everyone other than myself ordered the rare beef pho. The beef arrived admirably rare, as can be seen in the photo, and while I don't generally go for pho, I thought the soup was fantastic. If I hadn't been having such a bad throat following the weekend's antics, I would probably have ordered this just based on my friends' recommendations.
Instead, I went for the dry option: vermicelli with pork and non-spicy sauce (on account of the bad throat again). I really liked the pork and the sauce, but not so much the spring roll (unsurprisingly because while I don't hate spring rolls, I'm not a big fan of them either).
As you may have guessed by now, I can't remember any of the dish names, although I think the one I ate was 8a on the dry menu. I thought Cafe East had a website, but haven't been able to find any hint of it via Google, so you'll have to make do with my descriptions and the photos!
The bill came up to about £55 for the entire meal of two starters, five mains and five drinks. As with everyone else who's eaten there, I am in complete agreement with how affordable the place was, particularly given how good the food tasted.
The only minor quibble we had was with the service; while friendly, the waitress seemed to forget of our existence after we had been sat down. I didn't really have any issues with this, as I'm quite used to such service from restaurants in Singapore. However, as a friend pointed out, this would be a major issue for people choosing to dine al fresco. If you can't remember we're there when we're in plain sight, how much worse could it get if we're not anywhere near the cashier or kitchen?
100 Redriff Road (Surrey Quays Shopping Centre)
London SE16 7LH
Tel: 020 8691 7777