Oh GOD I want to go here SO MUCH.
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Bethnal Green, London
Town Hall Hotel Patriot Square, London E2 9NF
- Bethnal Green Tube Station (0.4 km)
- Stepney Green Station (1.2 km)
- Cambridge Heath Station (0.2 km)
- London Fields Station (1.1 km)
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50 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbrige, London SW3 1NY
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14 reviews of Viajante in English
Booked Viajante for a couple months after it opened, somewhere special, that had a lot of hype, for my dad’s birthday last year. We got the lunch menu which is all we could afford but got plenty of food.
Its the kinda place were you get given something to nibble all the time. The menu does not exist so everything you eat is a surprise, which if it is delicious, is great. And it was delicious, very fresh and healthy but inventive and unusual.
The only qualms I had with the meal was that every time they bring you food they give you a explanation of what it is which can stunt the conversation a little. The decor is a little off and I’d advice ordering a bottle of wine with your meal and not the recommended drink per course, which I wouldn’t say is that nice (cherry beer yuk)
One of the most inventive restaurants in London today. It's not cheap by any standard, but it's worth all the fanfare (and the Michelin star).
Hard to comment on the type of food since the tasting menu changes every day, but I can tell you that everything was cooked perfectly, and even if you don't like one of your courses, you have to give it up to the kitchen for executing the dish properly.
The bar across from the restaurant is beautiful too
Am I allowed to fill this box with "NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM" or do I have to expand my vocabularly sufficiently to mention the superlative friendly staff? The barman who made an off-menu Sidecar for me and related the fact that he used to make them for his grandma? The Jewish wedding music in the beautifully decorated bar?
Ok, what about the wine list that came inside a copy of Captain Cook's adventures - they're different for each table. The sommelier who introduced each wine in our wine pairing to us with such enthusiasm that we fell on the wine with even more love than would have otherwise done (amazing choices - saki! Lots of it). The food, so delicious, imaginative and moreish, that we managed six courses plus amuse bouches and palate cleansers without feeling stuffed? That Nuno Mendes came out with a copy for the menu for each of us at the end and I felt a little bit like I'd just met foodie God.
Moreover, that we spent £300 between us, and it still felt like a bargain.
Enough questions, go and answer for yourself. This wonderful restaurant is the full stop of London dining.
made the booking for Viajante two months in advance, something that I don't do often. Midway through that two months, the Michelin man came out with the 2011 Edition and they were awarded one star. Now I really couldn’t wait for the day to arrive.
After my experience, I really enjoyed the tasting menu. I didn’t know what to expect and what I got was natural ingredients with some that I have never seen or expected to be used to create dishes that was though filling, felt light and almost healthy. You usually leave feeling almost like roly-poly by the end of a tasting menu but this did not do that.
Less successful were some of the wine pairings as noted by my foodie partner in crime. It was such a relaxing lunch as the kitchen was relaxed, everything was in sync and there was even music being played in the kitchen. It almost feel like you were having a leisurely lunch in the comfort of your home.
Viajante in five words – provoking, refreshing, different, exquisite, delicate.
To read the complete review, please go to http://chopstix2steaknives.blogspot.com/2011/03/viajante-...
Viajante is a place I only heard about quite recently. It sounded too good to be true, a place that incorporates el Bulli and Noma esq cuisine in the middle of Bethnal Green. I thought I was having some sick and twisted foodie perverted dream. Or perhaps I have had enough of my area, whichever is true I was amazed to find that Viajante is in fact in Bethnal Green.
As a birthday present this year I received a voucher to have cocktails there (which I haven't used yet) but a lovely friend suggested we all go there on a Thursday afternoon.
This Thursday will forever be etched in my mind as the Thursday that changed my life. I'm never looking back from this dining experience, and I feel if anyone who claims to love food this is your culinary mecca. May you go at least once a year to get your key to the portal of extraordinary food bliss.
Firstly I love that they don't have a designated menu. You choose courses and they ask if you have any intolerances or allergies. One of our party was...I mean had a severe wheat and gluten intolerance. Initially I thought that would mean more bread for us, but they made a special one for her.
But this was the best bit anything that was a potential problem they didn't sem to get uncomfortable or sweaty under the brow or even take the approach of you can just eat rice or salad or "we can't accomodate your request". Not here. It seems to fuel the creativity even more.
To start with we had two amuse bouche the first one was called a 'Thai Explosion ll' which was spiced chicken, cooked with chicken skin and had bread on the outside (only for the intolerant one they just had chicken skin on hers)
This was a fragrant cluster bomb in the mouth. Gentle notes of galangal, lemongrass, coriander, lime, fish sauce and chilli all melanged into a bite. I wanted it again. Just like a visit to a ping pong bar in Bangkok.
The next thing that came was some bread and butter. Pretty standar for any michelin starred place one would think but here they did some magic. It came with what looked like two brown quinelles scattered with carnivorous debris. Butter 1 had black pudding in it. Butter 2 had Iberico ham. Nuno was pleasing me already, and if it was an ambassador party I would be tempted to say screw the ferrero rocher and give me the ham.
But you don't say things like that in places like this, well not out loud.
After we had these courses we were then given the option of matching wine to our subsequent courses. The intolerant one and I decided to stick to water but our other two earstwhile daytime drinkers had the wine.
I should have had wine too but I decided not to leave this foody shrine plastered.
The first course we had didn't have the most appetising description on the planet 'Charred leeks, lobster, milk skin and leek ash emusion'. It was the milk skin that sounded strange yet intriguing. When it arrived I thought I was looking at a piece of deconstructed art as that in effect was what it was. Every flavour was distinguished and they were generous with the lobster but not to the point it felt overbearing. I am not the greatest lover of lobster but in little chunks its fine. These sweet nuggets of tail and claw were sensational and the milk skin added an interesting texture to this. Topped with hazelnuts and brioche breadcrumbs (they left off the crumbs for the intolerant one) it all worked together in a moorish way. I would have licked the plate clean if I was more of an animal.
Second course was Lamb neck in hay, cauliflower and onion. This was seriously the nicest lamb I have ever eaten. It melted, had no chewiness or sinew and the cauliflower was cooked three ways. It was pickled, pureed and fried. Everything again balanced and I loved the concept of having deconstructed elements reconstructed on the plate.
We then had a pre-dessert of frozen maple pannacotta with a shisho granita and green apple. This will eternally put to bed ever considering lemon sorbet as a palate cleanser ever again.
The creaminess of the maple took away the sharp acidic and very green flavours of the apple and shisho. It tasted almost herbal but delightfully so. It was like eating something that willy wonka would make, when he has lickable wall paper in a meadow. This would have been what the meadow would have tasted like. Try it and you will see and believe that I am not crazy or on crack.
Now the next dessert had an air of mystery about it. Our server told us that she could tell us or we could guess what was in the next dessert. This was like a culinary version of Cluedo only there was no candlestick or conservatory involved and the intolerant one was dressed in blue so sadly no Miss Scarlet for us to be destroyed by was present.
This dessert looked at first like pastry and chocolate but on closer inspection there was something different. Also some caramel coloured tapioca was spooned over this making it look like a bizarre caramel frogspawn esq creation with a proud cream coloured quinelle sat atop it.
I thought I would try and flex my palate guessing skills and I guessed some of this correctly. The 'pastry' was in fact parsnip. I thought the black specks were vanilla but it turned out it was black pepper and coffee nibs. The vanilla flavour came from strips of parsnip being cooked in a vanilla syrup. Also the milk sorbet tasted like carnation milk. It was heavenly. The Tapioca was a wildcard. I thought I was being a smarty pants by thinking it was cooked with Pedro Ximenez sherry. WRONG! It was Belgian wheat beer! It tasted so sweet though it could have been sherry.
Still this dessert had a complex yet interesting array of textures and flavours and has blown my mind as to how a dessert can be made.
I salute Viajante for this creation especially as I am not the biggest dessert lover.
The petit fours were also a knock out. We had Crema Catalana (which they should have given more) with a lemon marshmallow cakey thing and a cep truffle.
Yes mushroom truffle. It worked and again I am still salivating over it. But the crema Catalana I want to eat every day until I die. It was sensational and I think there was definitely some orange oil in there as it was so intense.
The lemon marshmallow melted on the tongue and completing this with the truffle left my tastebuds feeling like it had been to a respectable orgy.
It was like a trip to coco de mer rather than ann summers in terms of food based mouthgasms to be had and I have found myself wanting to save up ad go again and again.
If Viajante doesn't get Two stars soon I will be highly surprised. Because of this I advise you go as soon as you can as you won't be disappointed. Also if you love food as much as I do then I can't urge you to go and be tickled here.
This isn't just about the food and the textures but about having a whole experience.
This will be an foody affair to remember. But before I end up divorced I will be bringing my beloved for my next jaunt here, otherwise I expect to remain in the doghouse eating beans on toast.
sarahdrinkwater, 3 March 2011:
Er, WOW. This sounds, simply, unbelievably good - shame I've just had a birthday (aka excuse to make someone take me there)!
Leng Montgomery, 4 March 2011:
You so should!
SanDav, 4 March 2011:
I was there! It was a foodie experience that I shall want to repeat with my partner too. Otherwise I'll be joining you in the doghouse ;)
petermirandaphoto, 30 March 2011:
I thought I was reading a novel..
For photos see http://www.swedishmeatballeatslondon.com
After having lunch at Viajante a while ago I've become absolutely obsessed with it. Bread with chicken skin and pancetta butter... At night I dream of visiting again, for a full 12 course tasting menu. One day! The setting is beautiful, Nuno Mendes comes to your table and serves you (!!!), and the food is exciting and fresh. Go!
For full article, see: http://wp.me/pwXBH-YL
Nuno Mendes’ new venture certainly warrants attention. Much like the “travelling” theme of the restaurant, it is clear that Viajante is embarking on a journey. Its kitchen has a fascinating pedigree and there are flashes of brilliance, both in the food itself and the design. I am eager to visit again once they have progressed further along their path to discover what it is they want to become. But for now, £25 for 3 courses with so many extras has to be one of the best fine dining values around!
Bringing it all together
True to form, I am pretty sure most London-based food bloggers have already reviewed Viajante, and if you are from London, you quite likely already know a bit about it. Nonetheless, I believe that some degree of context is always useful – but if you don’t need it, please skip ahead to the part about the meal.
Viajante is the newest venture of Nuno Mendes, an intriguing Portuguese chap who was formerly chef at London’s Bacchus and also runs a supper club called The Loft Project. Nuno also notably worked at El Bulli and has travelled the world working in various exciting kitchens. The Loft Project features notable chefs from all over the world who take up residence for a few nights to cook in an open kitchen to a table of 16 random paying guests (for reference, a review of the meal I had when Samuel Miller, Sous-Chef from noma, was cooking can be found here).
As I understand it, The Loft Project sort of proved as a testing ground for Viajante, while Nuno figured out what type of food and experience he wanted to offer diners. The restaurant itself took a long time to develop, and after a somewhat prolonged soft opening, it finally reached fruition.
Viajante, which is means ‘traveller’ and is therefore apt – also because the kitchen is made up of chefs who have done stints at major international restaurants – is located within the Town Hall Hotel in East London’s Bethnal Green.
There, now that wasn’t too painful , was it?
The travellers settle in
I dined there for lunch during my last week living in London (sob), and had the pleasure of sharing the meal with kindred foodie spirit (and actual person) @gourmetraveller. She, of course, had already dined here many aeons before our rendezvous. She said the food had been interesting and that it made for an engaging dining experience that was quite unique in London at the moment (see her review here), so she didn’t have a problem returning for another meal there. Either that or I’m irresistible.
In any case, I am pretty sure that she didn’t tag along just because the second part of her online identity shares the same meaning as the restaurant. Cue snare drums.
I had actually taken my first ever half-day off from work to have this lunch so that I wouldn’t have to rush back to the office, most likely too cheerful from inebriation that my colleagues would be highly suspicious given my otherwise rather cantankerous office disposition. I rode solo on the top deck of red London carriage and took in the rawness of the ever-effervescent East London landscape.
It was a cold, wet and dreary afternoon, and I was all too happy to get inside the Town House Hotel’s front door a-sap.
Upon stepping through the main entrance, there is a bar through the glass doors on the right, which interestingly is not housed within the dining room, while the restaurant proper lies through the glass doors to the left.
The hostess informed me that @gourmetraveller had already arrived and was in the bar. After some quick detective work (à la Jonathan Ames in Bored to Death – sans the horrible raincoat), I realized she was not there. It was just me plus Nuno and a couple of people who were obviously trying to pitch something to him over in the corner.
A very friendly young barman gave me a drink list to peruse as I waited for the ghost of GT past to arrive. He said he could report no sightings of the said apparition, but I barely heard him as I was quite intrigued by the sound of some of the liberal libations on offer.
Just as I was getting down and dirty (so to speak) with my Breakfast Martini, she appeared from the bowels of the building, where I presume she had been attending to her own bowels. Greetings were dispensed and a second drink menu was proffered for the good lady. Meanwhile, I was enjoying a slightly sweet concoction made from vodka (normally Chase Seville Orange Marmalade but they had run out so something else was substituted), Cointreau, fresh lemon juice, orange juice (or grapefruit if you prefer) and honey. It was certainly easy to drink.
The tardy gourmand ordered the fascinating sounding (and looking) Green Traveller, seemingly not perturbed by the fact that she was taking this name similarity business to a whole new level. Her drink was made using fresh lemongrass, Tanqueray, Green Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice and orange bitters – with Thai basil bubbles to make you feel comfortable that the drink was worth what you were paying for it. She didn’t seem to be complaining, and my one sip had me liking this one better than my own pretty decent cocktail.
Appetites and livers duly whetted, we headed over to the other side for the culinary shenanigans to begin.
Three becomes nine
Our table was booked quite late in the lunch service, and unfortunately the more extended tasting menu was not available at this time. We settled for the seemingly good value 3-course menu at £25. As there was no menu to choose from – the kitchen decides what they will serve you on the day – we took in the surroundings. We were seated in the back part of the dining room, which is semi-separated by a wall in the middle with wide passages on both sides.
I was digging the calming blues and warm wood tones of the place, and liked the natural light that was afforded by the large windows – although it made it hard to take decent photos of the food, given my still pretty limited abilities as a photographer.
The only thing that stuck out – and it really did seem out of place – was the old-fashioned green tiled fireplace nestled directly behind us.
Otherwise, it was a fairly sparse modern space, but I certainly didn’t find it cold or off-putting. It is the kind of room you can tell has been scrutinized in painstaking detail even though it doesn’t seem like there’s that much to it. Stilted? Maybe, but I was quite comfortable at our table, which was well-spaced apart from the other diners.
Just before our first plate of food arrived, the sommelier stopped by to ask us what we wanted to drink. There was apparently a pairing for the meal (also very reasonable at £15), which seemed to be the only option from what we could make out from his very rushed and awkward spiel. So, presented with no other real alternatives, we said ‘sure’. He did initially come across very odd for a restaurant that I would imagine places some importance on the pairings of the food and drinks. But before I had much time to think about it, he had disappeared.
Amuse Bouche 1: House Sashimi:
The first dish was delivered on an interestingly textured circular plate, and we were told nothing about what was on it – this was part of the game, I suppose. Although the sashimi looked like a red fish of some sort, it was merely visual trickery as the deep red substance was in actual fact watermelon which had been slow-cooked and slightly charred. The melon had been topped with a variety of elements, including soy beans, sesame seeds and micro greens. It was a successful and refreshing start to the meal, and the textures worked well together to create some interest in the mouth. The only thing odd about it (besides the fact that ‘sashimi’ didn’t refer to fish) was that we were only brought one plate of it, and were meant to share it, which was slightly awkward given that we didn’t have little plates of our own. 7/10.
Amuse Bouche 2: Roasted Broad Bean:
Next, a roasted broad bean was presented on a small square black slab of slate. Inside the beautifully presented specimen lurked a cream of the peeled beans themselves, which was pierced by three square shards of São Jorge cheese with a thin snake-like link of pea shoots residing on top. On the side, there was a dusting of toasted brioche crumbs.
It was a beautiful and dainty looking dish and it tasted very good. The peas themselves were just slightly seasoned, allowing their delicate natural flavor to shine, and they had a lovely soft texture. The cheese brought a nice sharpness to the dish, and I ate it with some of the crumbs which added a pleasant crunchiness. This was a very good second amuse, and further illustrated the inventiveness of the kitchen. 7/10.
Amuse Bouche 3: Thai Explosion:
The third of the amuses was an Eastern offering. We were instructed to each take one of these miniature parcels in our hand off of our server’s plate and immediately pop it in our mouth and eat it in one bite. I took a quick photo of it, and didn’t really get the chance to ask what it was inside it. I believe that the exterior shells were made up of crisp bread on one side and crispy chicken skin on the other. Inside it tasted of an ever-so-sweet green Thai curry, with a gentle heat that lingered at the back of the throat after it had been eaten. The little coriander leaf was artfully placed on top and the flavor complemented the ‘explosion’ well. It was subtle and elegant, but it wasn’t out-of-this-world. 6/10.
Amuse Bouche 4: Ficelles with Whipped Brown Butter:
The feast of amuses continued, and was brought to a brilliant finale with two ficelles (thin baguettes) and two artfully presented scoops of whipped brown butter – one pairing for each diner.
The ficelles themselves were extremely well made, and were probably some of the best baguettes I’ve eaten the in UK. They were perfectly crunchy and had a lovely softness inside. The real master stroke here though was the whipped brown butter. It was extremely light, slightly rich (with notes of caramelization, likely due to the fact that I believe it had been whipped with brown sugar), and it was garnished with purple potato powder, pancetta crumbs and bits of crisp chicken skin. I could have easily continued eating wooden tray after wooden tray of this brilliant combination well into the afternoon. 9/10.
Course 1: Cornish Crab, Textures of Beetroot, Goats Cheese, Leek Ash, Sunflower Seeds:
The first course of the meal proper was an artfully arranged plate of food, to say the least. Unfortunately, I felt this dish didn’t quite come together, despite its curb appeal.
The flavour of the crab itself was almost entirely buried beneath everything else, while the ‘textures’ of the beets really only seemed to be one texture presented in multiple hues (crimson and gold). Also, there was quite a high proportion of goats cheese lying beneath it all, which had a strong flavor that almost drowned out everything else when you took a bite of it. Finally, there were simply too many seeds, so the texture became too crunch too easily. There were also some onions floating about in the fray, which were nicely cooked. Overall, it was style over substance in this dish, which both @gourmetraveller and I felt just didn’t integrate well as a whole. 5/10.
Luckily, the dry Tokaj wine (2007 Tokaj Dry Furmint, Szepsy) was a perfect match for the freshness of our first course. It displayed subtle melon on the nose, had a nice streak of minerality and decent structure but a pretty short finish.
Course 2: Halibut, Courgette, Sofrito, Egg Yolk:
The second course was a particularly memorable dish, especially as I don’t care for halibut all that much. The fish itself was cooked absolutely perfectly, and aside from being artistically arranged, the courgettes actually added a nice subtle flavor that married well with the meaty fish. I wasn’t sure how well the deep red sofrito would mesh with the green and white components of the dish, but it did so admirably, maybe because it was quite mild in spice.
But the ace up Mendes’ sleeve was the egg yolk, which when pierced produced a perfectly runny bright orange glue which bound the whole dish together by acting as a sauce. The flavor of the little orange orb worked surprisingly seamlessly with the mild fishy flavor of the halibut. It was a fairly simple but genius concoction which I really didn’t expect to work, but which totally proved my instincts to be wrong in this instance. Really clever cooking. 8/10.
I found the matching wine (2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Life from Stone from South Africa) to be a rather typical ‘big’ new world Sauvignon, with lots of zing and grassy gooseberry and a touch of something else (maybe peppers). I have to say that while I have gone off this style of Sauvignon over the last few months, it went exceedingly well with the halibut dish, cutting through the fish and sofrito just enough to keep interest on both the food and the wine – it was truly complementary.
Palate Cleanser: Green Tea Granita with Sisho:
Another dish, another plate and bowl. The pre-dessert was a beautifully-presented green tea granita with a bit of sisho (the Japanese name for the green leaf that is part of the mint family) perched on top in the center of semi-open egg shell receptacle. It was mild in flavor but worked well as a palate cleanser. Neither of us had too much to say about this one. 6/10.
Course 3: Pannacotta Ice Cream, Thai Basil Powder, Hazelnut Crumbs, Apple:
I rushed into the dessert before I got a chance to snap a photo of it, so unfortunately this picture was taken when it was nearly half eaten…but hopefully you can get a sense of what it may have looked like (again, very pretty – surprise, surprise).
This was a delicate and light dessert which provided a soft closing to the meal. The ice cream itself was excellent, with a luscious texture, and it paired well with the milder-than-expected Thai basil powder. There were also discs of sliced green apples and some excellent toasted hazelnut crumbs. It was a very pleasant sweet, but not too sweet, end to the meal. 7.5/10.
By this time, we had warmed to the sommelier a bit more, following the rather awkward initial exchange. I think he noticed we were quite interested in the wine pairings and therefore brought us a sampling of two wines to try with our dessert.
The first was a sweet German wine (2007 Ruster Ausbruch, Feiler-Artinger), which was made from a blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Neuburger and Chardonnay grapes. I found it to be right on the edge of cloyingly sweet and, while nice to drink on its own as a dessert in its own right, it didn’t complement the subtle flavors of the dessert but rather overpowered them with strong notes of honey, caramel and biscuits.
The second wine was a simple Vin de Table Français (2007 Julien Courtois, Originel) which was quite dry and actually went pretty well with the dessert, though not perfectly. It was quite odd to drink on its own – not unpleasant, just strange. It was billed as a ‘natural’ wine and I believe he said it hadn’t been filtered or fined. The aroma was very muted to begin with, but both the smell and the taste seemed to develop dramatically in the glass after a short period of time. As I said, it was bone dry and fairly herbaceous, although there was some apple in there somewhere and possibly a touch of honey. It cut through the ice cream nicely and went well with the sweetness of the apple in the dessert. I suppose it was a welcome change from the ordinary as the wine definitely had a character of its own.
The sommelier let us try another ‘natural’ red wine after the dessert (2008-2009 Clos Ouvert, Vino Puro), which was interesting as it again evolved significantly the longer it spent in the glass. We couldn’t make our minds up as to whether we liked it or not, but certainly found it interesting. It developed some light raspberry flavor and I thought it had a touch of spice at the beginning that faded away after not too long (or maybe imagined it to begin with).
Petit Fours 1: Passion Fruit & Ginger Marshmallow and Cep Truffle:
But hold your horses; our ’3-course’ lunch was not yet over. After ordering some coffee (@gourmetraveller opted for tea) to finish the meal off once and for good, we were presented with an array of immaculate petit fours.
First, I tried the brown and orange duo which were presented on individual hollow ceramic cubes (each one is slightly different in color and design). The small orange box was a passion fruit and ginger marshmallow with a light crust, which was tasty. But more interesting was the dark chocolate and cep truffle, that had been topped off with a fleck of Maldon salt. I joked that they should make a ‘truffle’ truffle (i.e. truffle mushrooms in a chocolate truffle), but I guess that might be too obvious for the obviously clever kitchen. Anyway, the truffle worked well as you tasted the flavor of the cep, but not so much that it spoke louder than the chocolate itself. All in all, a delightful pair. 8/10.
Petit Fours 2: Crema Catalana:
The other petit four was a fairly traditional Crema Catalana which had been infused with some citrus flavor. The texture was spot-on and the flavor was just superb – I just wish the glass had been half-full and not four-fifths empty! 8/10.
Aside from being one of the most striking coffee drinks I’ve been served in recent times, they served me a perfect macchiato to finish. I didn’t ask whose beans they used, but I think it may have been Square Mile. It was one of the best coffees I’ve been served in a restaurant. Or I was quite plastered by this time.
I couldn’t have been all that plastered, though, because I did find my way to the bathroom, ducking beneath a great vertical rectangular sign (or piece of artwork?) on my way down the stairs.
We were meant to continue the enjoyable afternoon by checking in on Ben Greeno, yet another former cook a noma (and also Viajante), who at the time was preparing for dinner service at his now-closed Tudor Road supper club. Before heading out, however, Nuno came over to introduce himself – something I believe he was doing with all of the diners. I was struck by his shy modesty and his seemingly genuine intrigue in whatever we happened to be saying. He was exceedingly nice and polite and you could really tell why other chefs would be interested in collaborating with him. He made a distinct impression.
Refined, ambitious, almost there
As you can tell, I liked the space and design of the restaurant. In our conversation, Nuno had made a point of telling us that every dish was served on its own plate (or vessel) and he clearly believes that the serving medium is an essential component of each dish – indeed, he said that some of their culinary creations had actually taken direction from the shape and textures of the plate that had been selected. This could surely be seen as pretension taken to a new level, but coming from Nuno, it actually seemed to make sense, as did the conceit of the room, although it didn’t seem to be quite fully realized yet.
I had similar feelings about the food. All of it was tasty, save for perhaps the crab dish which didn’t do much for me. Every dish – including the not insignificant extras – demanded attention, firstly because they had been presented so beautifully and secondly because (just like the Transformers) there was usually more than met the eye. The sheer diversity of the meal made it fun and engaging, and again reflected the name, and I suppose ethos, of the restaurant. While I don’t think any of the individual dishes will make my “Top Dishes of 2010” (watch this space), the overall experience was intriguing, and brimming with potential. And I don’t think you can find any other place in London serving such inventive food for a £25 meal in which you are given no less than nine individual courses (4 amuses, 3 courses, 1 pre-dessert and petit fours) – for that alone, it is an amazing fine dining bargain.
My gut reaction is that Viajante is a place with a certain pedigree that is still in the process of defining itself, and is not in a particular hurry to get there. I, for one, am certainly interested to find out what it ends up becoming, because there is something very different about this place from any other restaurant I’ve visited in London as of late.
As my favorite poet put it, “Fare forward, travellers!”
Wine: I didn’t actually see the wine list so can’t comment per se, but they do certainly have an interesting wine program, with a keen an increasing focus on natural wines.
Note: I have dined at Viajante once, and it was for lunch
Visiting Viajante is an experience and anyone who's really interested in food and eating out should go there. i'd recommend not going for the 12 courses unless you have a huge appetite as with the amuse bouches etc it turns into 17 courses and that was really too much. You'd get just as much enjoyment from the 9 course and the 6 course I'm sure would still be wonderful. Nuno Mendes is very talented and obviously has a real passion for food and combining flavours.
I paid an early evening visit to the bar last night and if there are any flaws, I most certainly didn't spot them (and unsolicited shortcoming spotting is usually a family speciality!). The bar is stylish, airy and comfortable without approaching overly (s)wanky territory, and with subtle levels of lighting create the necessary atmosphere while still allowing you to make out the boat of the person you're talking to - if I wanted anonymous chats in the dark, I'd go to a sex club.
The service is a neat combo between bar and table service, where your barman will come and attend to your needs and to glibly describe the staff as informed would be gravely underselling their impressive levels of both knowledge and dedication. I, who like to smugly think of myself as something of a tea expert, was so royally mullahed and out-trumped at our table on the tea front that I just kept my gob shut and nodded gormlessly, out of fear of saying something stupid and confirming my comparative ignorance. I also learnt a first-hand lesson in the art of the twice-frozen ice that was swishing about in the excellent Old Fashioned my homeboy's missus was knocking back.
I was pleasantly occupied washing my heavily-salted - in the most perfect way - homemade crisps down with a remarkable Chinese oolong tea; the others tackled a towering (in height and taste) smoked beer and aforementioned Old Fashioned, with a dizzying choice of whiskeys and bourbons available but thankfully barmen - who do seem to know everything about everything - adept at assisting your choice.
The bar menu is indeed extensive, with everything from a fine selection of wines, a superb variety of beers, cocktails and top-notch teas, and what I additionally found incredibly impressive was the prices. The cocktails come in around the £7 mark, which when you consider the skilful manner in which they're knocked up and the prices you'd pay elsewhere, it's staggeringly good value.
If you're local, you'll be overjoyed. If you're not: pay a visit. Next stop for me is the restaurant and then the hotel with its array of unique, artist-designed rooms....
Viajante - Pics at The London Foodie
Having had the most fantastic meal at The Loft supper club which I reviewed in 2009 (here), I was eagerly awaiting the opening of Nuno Mendes’ new restaurant “Viajante” in Bethnal Green’s imposing Town Hall building.
I was pleased to find that they offer a £25 lunch set menu which I tweeted about. It didn’t take more than a few minutes until a tweet up was organised with Uyen & Simon of Fernandez and Leluu, Jones (Unwholey), Euwen (A rather unusual chinaman), and Joshua of Cooking the Books.
Set in the grand Town Hall building, the bar and restaurant areas are airy and light, boasting huge windows, parquet flooring, and some very elegant furnishings. I liked the clean, semi-minimalist feel of these rooms, with their light colours and the Scandinavian-styled furniture. It was also good to find a relatively intimate restaurant (a maximum of 40 covers at any one time) which overlooks an open plan kitchen so diners can watch the chefs in action.
We had a few cocktails at the bar before heading to the dining area (diners are only seated when the entire party is at the restaurant). We opted for the 3-couse set menu priced at £25. There are no descriptions of the dishes on the menu. Viajante also offers 6 courses
£60, 9 courses £75 and 12 courses
£85. Wine “flights” can also be purchased to match each course and these are priced £30, £45 and £60 respectively.
We kicked off proceedings with a dainty amuse bouche of paper thin toast topped with romesco sauce, tapenade, greens and gherkin slices in a beautiful checker-board pattern.
Our first starter was a glass of soya milk (similar to a panna cotta in texture), and tasted like good quality, creamy tofu I have eaten in Japan. This was topped with a delicious layer of jellied dashi flavoured with aubergines and a small sandwich of pureed aubergine in layers of filo pastry. I loved the combination of flavours of this dish, although some of my fellow diners disagreed, so I was lucky enough to finish off Uyen’s.
The second starter “Thai Explosion” was served next - shredded chicken in a lightly spiced, creamy sauce reminiscent of Thai green curry and sandwiched between two thin wafers. From Japan to Thailand, the flavours were again complex and tantalising – I love the Asian influences in Nuno’s cooking and am still to find a chef who can incorporate these in their repertoire as well as he does.
A platter of bread and butter was also served. The bread was obviously freshly baked on the premises and tasted good. I would struggle however to describe the “butter” – it was very light, similar to churned butter milk and flavoured with some unidentifiable ingredient. The purple coloured seasoning was also intriguing, and the overall taste of the butter was outstanding.
Three courses on, I feared that this was the end of our lunch. Luckily it wasn’t and we were soon served a fish course of sashimi squid, with squid ink granita, thin slivers of radish, samphire and other greens. In my opinion, this was the best dish of the day – the flavour combination of squid ink granita, squid, olive oil and samphire was heavenly, and everyone at the table loved it. The presentation was again fantastic and I savoured every little bit of that dish.
Our next main dish was a meat course of tender pork and prawns with deep fried capers and green cabbage juice. The meat was deliciously yielding and combined well with the prawns. I was pleasantly surprised with the salty flavour and texture of the deep fried capers which really lifted the dish.
As a palate cleanser, we had a lemon and holy basil sorbet. The flavour of basil was intense and magnificently refreshing. I am not a huge fan of sorbets but I loved this and cannot wait to try and replicate it at home some time soon.
For dessert, we had a chocolate fondant with pureed raspberries, hazelnut ice cream and ginger crumble. The raspberry juice was nicely tart and contrasted well with the rich chocolate. The ice cream had an intense nutty flavour and was the perfect accompaniment to the fondant. The spicy ginger crumble added another layer of complexity to this delightful and very satisfying dessert.
As petit fours, we had chocolate truffles with a citric aspic. The truffles were filled with white chocolate with intriguingly earthy overtones. Nuno explained that the white chocolate mixture had mushroom as one of the ingredients.
The wine list is carefully thought out but also overpriced in my opinion. There are only two choices below £30 (a white Pinot Grigio for £22, and a red Syrah priced at £24). We ordered a bottle of Syrah @ £24 which had slight peppery tones and nice, soft tannins. It was a great choice by Simon, and one I will make sure to order on my next visit.
It was nice to see Nuno Mendes again as he cooked and oversaw his team at Viajante. He came to our table and chatted with us for a while, and was as charming and unassuming as I remembered him to be when I first met him at his supper club, The Loft.
Cost: £251.44 in total or £42 per person including drinks and service (£25 for the 3-course tasting menu, a cocktail per person and a shared bottle of wine).
Likes: creative cooking, sophisticated and complex flavours to titillate and intrigue the most jaded palate, elegant setting and decor, good value £25 tasting menu, excellent martinis. Filtered water readily available and free of charge.
Dislikes: having our booking changed 2 hours prior to our allocated slot was a little worrying, few affordable wine choices, a menu devoid of description of the dishes.
Verdict: The much awaited Viajante has finally opened and Nuno Mendes is showcasing what he does best – excellent, creative cooking, combining intriguing and complex flavours to utter perfection. A great value tasting menu to be had in elegant surroundings. I cannot wait to return for the blow-out 12 course menu. Very highly recommended.
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