It is a common misconception that London is a city. It is, in fact, a series of communities, tied together by bonds of underground line, riverbank, compass direction, night bus. And beyond and beneath these geographic communities, we have cultural communities, rendering their own flavours to the streets.
So appetised, your average gutter-jumping Londoner can venture towards the TfL horizons and be generously rewarded for their commitment and optimism. It happened to us a few weekends back in Singburi, Leyton, and in the same spirit of greedy anthropology we set off to Walthamstow, once of Essex, now of Greater London.
We decided to leave Walthamstow Village to the hipsters and young families, and performed two lengths of the market. I fell in love with a portly, egg-laden lobster in one of the three glorious fishmongers on route, but left without her because of my growing loyalty towards See Woo of Chinatown. The market itself offered an ethnic diversity of shopper and stallholder that excites me as much as it froths Farage.
A preprandial Bloody Mary of little humility at Mirth, Marvel and Maud was all the more welcome as the good folk of Etles run a dry restaurant. Thank Allah it was Saturday lunch. These good folk are Uyghur and, as with many Muslims along the Silk Road, they have a good way with noodles, lamb, cumin, and charcoal.
Skewers of lamb cubes and kidney were impossible to disagree with, the former succulent and charred, the latter plump and light. These toothsome nibbles were supported by an extensive cast of lamb trotters in a tangy sauce, small and dense dumplings with chilli sauce, chewy and impossibly long lagman noodles with a beef stew.
Like the kidneys, the lamb trotters were almost disappointly easy to enjoy. No hardship, no arduous gastronomy, no brownie points for trying. I am fond of textures that test the limits of desirability, but all the offal and skin on offer was unchallenging – and so our forks roved across the table freely and inquisitively.
I’m often surprised that the texturally-inclined East seems most often to deliver a noodle that struggles to match pasta for al dente chew. So while I enjoy East Asian flavours, Italy often bosses the carbohydrates. Etles’s lagman offer no competition for that bite, but it is a dense and bouncy chew, with comedic length that frustrates delicate consumption. All of which adds up to a positive experience, full of doughy comfort.
If you enjoy your noodles, lamb, cumin, and charcoal, you can also have those buttons pushed at Silk Road in Camberwell and Gourmet San in Bethnal Green, amongst many others. What marks Etles out Etlesis a calm and kind service within a clean and colourful environment, and the tangy flavour of what I assume to be Chinese black vinegar. Both the dumpling sauce and the lambs trotters offer a complementary sourness that elevate the respective dishes, and the meal as a whole, to somewhere beyond the usual loop of flavours.
I’d warmly recommend Londoners divert from their respective loops and invest in the trip up the Victoria Line.
While it’s up, I must also warmly agree with every sentiment expressed in their website:
Etles 593 Leytonstone High Road London E11 4PA