3 Henrietta Street is a townhouse in the heart of Covent Garden. Steps away from the hustle and bustle, it houses British bar and bistro Pivot, Lilly's cafe and Hawaiian hidden gem El Ta'koy.
El Ta'koy is a Hawaiian street food restaurant & tiki bar on the lower ground floor. The à la carte menu is centred around sharing plates, tacos, and snacks inspired by the multi-cultural culinary influences and flavours found on the small Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Available every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from midday to 4pm, the Bento Box Brunch is £35 and comes with a complementary Tiki Cocktail. We went for a Saturn with gin, falernum, orgeat, lemon juice & passion fruit, and a Jungle Bird with rum, lime, pineapple and Campari. We loved the retro pineapple glassware and garnishes; this turned out to be the first of many examples of great attention to detail which really sets El Ta'koy apart.
The Bento Brunch also includes these starters: empanadas with a smoked chipotle & agave dipping sauce and nachos with pineapple, jalapeño, red onion, avocado puree and lemon cream. The nachos were very good - light and not at all oily, topped with a beautifully balanced tumble of fresh but punchy flavours - but the empanadas were outstanding. I often find the pastry in dishes like pasties, turnovers and empanadas can make them a little dry and unbalanced, particularly the double-thickness pastry seal; here it is so incredibly crisp and delicate, it allows the spicy filling of black beans, aubergines, plantain and tofu to shine.
Each bento box contains its own treasures. In my Fish Bento Box, I had a shrimp lumpia (an Indonesian/Filipino spring roll with a thin, crispy pastry wrapper) and a delicious pile of fresh, soft salmon poke. Alongside, coconut rice with a spring onion and nori seasoning and a fabulous tuna and caviar taquito: crunchy, soft, salty and sweet. My companion was just as enthusiastic about their Meat Bento Box with spiced lamb lumpia, sticky popcorn chicken and a pork taco; there is also a vegan version available, with mushroom lumpia, chipotle sauce, tofu kimchi taquitos, popcorn cauliflower & coconut rice.
What was immediately evident was the chef's skill and deep understanding of flavour and balance, plus their attention to detail - scored cucumber, lime cheeks half-dipped in spiced salt for squeezing, considered garnishes which are all there for flavour as well as appearance. Everything I tasted was wonderful.
El Ta'koy is the latest concept from Chef Luis Pous, formerly the Executive Chef for Asia de Cuba - one of my very favourite restaurants back in the day when it was housed in the Sanderson, along with the Long Bar. In chatting to the manager/mixologist Sahil and the chef Waleed, I discovered that they are both Asia de Cuba veterans from London and Dubai, which explains their expertise.
Although not normally lured by sweet things, I wasn't going to miss dessert. We had the meltingly moreish Banana Lumpia: banana and chocolate in light, crisp pastry, served with a chocolate sauce made with coconut milk and topped with coconut shavings.
El Ta'koy has such a lovely, relaxed vibe; the abundant greenery, tropical prints and the cosiness of the deep green walls make you feel you have stepped into a beach bar but actually it is the genuine passion and skill of the staff that really makes it work. I've just added it to my list of go-to destinations in Covent Garden and I strongly suggest you do the same.
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Amanda David is a freelance food writer specialising in London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and events. She is the Events Editor for London Cheapo and a regular contributor to Palate Magazine.
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