Jonathan Schofield enjoys it quick and spicy in Spice Land

EAST Street lies in Spice Islands, those concrete ‘pavilions’ in Piccadilly Gardens. The place is part of the Tampopo group, and provides ‘fast pan-Asian food’ which lives up to the billing. You order, you pick up your victuals from the other end of the counter and you eat, washed down with various ‘Eastern’ soft drinks, beers or wine. 

Given the reasonable prices (if modest portion size) this is an easy and slick experience delivered by smiling staff in a modish design full of bright colours, but still giving us that oh-so-trendy unpolished ambience.

Of course the view at 10pm when East Street is closing is different. Run, just run

The menu is as vivid as the soft drink cans and features fetching pictures of enticing dishes. It all looks self-consciously ‘fun’, but then the rear of the menu advertises the Trafford Centre outlet of East Street, and introduces an un-designed laugh out loud moment in describing the TC location as ‘between McDonalds and Subway in the Orient’. The more I say that sentence in a world obsessed with seeking the 'authentic' the more I smile.

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East Street: interesting on the inside, gripping outside

The Trafford Centre is, of course, an evil unreal shopping city. It anesthetises itself from austerity UK by shooting beggars and homeless people from gun towers positioned around the car parks. (Really? It doesn’t. Are you sure?) 

The city centre East Street is different, because outside those plate glass windows in Piccadilly Gardens all life is in motion. Social anthropologists should create a space in one corner of East Street, a sort of bird-hide for people, and write the definitive text on the human condition.

On a sunny afternoon there was great people watching to be had, with people alone or in groups lunching, lounging, reading, playing with smart phones and selling drugs, while in the background kids were running between the fountains, the not-so-innocent and the innocence of youth. 

The cultural mix was astonishing and I reckon, given the food at East Street is inspired by Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan, there was at least one person of all those nations in Piccadilly Gardens at some point during the meal. Of course the view at 10pm when East Street is closing is different. Run, just run. Even the East Street website describes the location as the ‘infamous Piccadilly Gardens’.

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East Street menu featuring fetching food pictures

I liked the food, which is delivered in Tupperware, while the drinks come in plastic glasses too. This dismissal of ceramic and real glass is becoming a bit of a thing in dining and its getting a little tiresome. The situation was rescued by the food which has sufficient verve to keep the palate interested.

As stated I liked the food but it’s almost totally fowl. Chicken is more or less the only flesh on the menu. There’s one beef dish and thirteen chicken dishes, it’s a coop de grace so to speak, certainly for any sort of fish.

Still, the chilli chicken in oyster sauce with rice at £7.95 was excellent, spicy, giving a little sting to the lips, with an aromatic abundance and juicily tender chicken. I went Indonesian for my choice with an entertaining nasi goreng for £5.95 which came with a lovely runny egg, good rice, bay and citrus flavours and, yes, chicken, again juicily tender. 

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Left-right: Nasi goreng (£5.95), flatbread roti (£1.50) and chilli chicken in oyster sauce (£7.95)
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Chicken satay skewers (£4.95)

The flatbread roti were wonderfully delicate things at £1.50 and provided a perfect wrap for my nasi goreng ingredients. Indeed wrapping the food up was the best way of sampling both. Chicken satay skewers (£4.95) were heavy with peanuts but good, less cultured than the previous dishes.

All in all, East Street does the job: good food in minutes, in a Piccadilly sea of other fast food joints and other types of joint. It’s fast pan-Asian plus pandemonium. If you like eating and dancing then get yourself down, the music bangs off the walls at almost club levels.

East Street, Piccadilly Gardens, The Pavillion, Manchester M1 1RG. Tel: 0161 236 4336

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East Street sits in Spice Islands, those concrete ‘pavilions’ in Piccadilly Gardens

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 6.5/10

    Prawns 6, chilli chicken 6.5, nasi goreng 6.5, roti 7

  • Ambience 3/5

    Pleasant on the inside, gripping outside

  • Service 3/5

    Very helpful