Saturday, 22 February 2014

Viajante


I always knew this one would blow the budget! But when I heard that Nuno Mendes, Chef/Patron at Viajante, was moving on after 4 years, I didn't care. I had missed one of my bucket list restaurants when it closed at the end of January and I refused to miss another one! 

Viajante is located at the Bethnal Green Town Hall, which has been converted into a beautiful Art Deco hotel in the heart of the East End. Truth be told, the area isn't great but on a beautiful day like it was on this Sunday with the bright blue sky and sunshine behind it, the building stands majestically on an otherwise drab road.


We started with a few drinks in the bar next to the main dining room. A gorgeous space, in keeping with the Art Deco theme of the hotel. The barman, a really friendly Italian (I don't remember his name) made us feel so comfortable that it was almost a shame that we had to leave the bar for our lunch.

Across the hallway and into the dining room, we took our seats and were advised to choose either six (£78.00) or nine (£90.00) courses. This is a blind tasting, so we would only be presented with a menu at the end of the meal. As this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, The Better Half (TBH) and I decided to go for the 9 course tasting menu. I haven't felt anticipation like this for a very long time! 

The amuse bouche(s) began rolling out, in fact there were six different little morsels all of them absolutely gorgeous. The stand out dish for me was the 'Buttermilk with meringue', a light as a feather meringue that almost melted away, filled with a salmon mousse and roe that was rich without being overly fishy. The bread and butter was incredible too. The potato baguette had a crispy crust and was served with a brown butter topped with chicken skin. The soft pancetta sourdough bread had more flavour to it and was accompanied with another butter, this time hay-smoked with almonds. Definitely not your typical supermarket butter. Light, creamy and utterly delicious!

L-R: Bread & Butter; Amaranth with sorrel; Ameijoa bulgar pato;
Yeast & Potatoes;  Buttermilk Meringue, Gordal Olive Soup

Onto the nine course proper. Two days before our booking, the restaurant called me to ask if we had any dislikes and the only thing I mentioned was aniseed. There are a couple more, but aniseed/liquorish is one flavour that neither TBH nor I can bear! (Way too many Sambucas in our youth!) The phone call made me even more excited about what was to come.

So the first course arrived. Chewy scallops with lactose - as chewy as the name suggests. An interesting dish, but didn't blow us away.


Next was salsify with pine and mushroom - neither of us had tasted salsify before and weren't really sure what to expect. We were told to use it as a 'soldier' and dip it into the pine purée. The purée was delicious, but I wasn't sold on the salsify, it was a little too crunchy and a little flavourless to be honest.


Our third course was Topinambur with brown crab and buttermilk emulsion - for those that don't know what topinambur is, it is Jerusalem artichoke. Perfectly cooked and adding a lovely woodiness to the dish. The crab and buttermilk emulsion was rich and extremely more'ish.


Langoustine with braised chicken skin - this was my favourite dish of the day. Looking at the picture, it looks a bit 'meh' but the flavours were out of this world and the broth was just magnificent. I could've easily eaten another one of these. 



Beets and cheese - this reminded me of a similar dish that we had at Restaurant Story last year. Great flavours and textures that work well together.


Course number 6 was mackerel with black barley - I'm not the biggest fan of mackerel, but this was my surprise dish of the day. Perfectly cooked fillet of fish and the black barley adding a lovely saltiness.




Iberico presa with leek and walnuts - another favourite dish. The meat was cooked to a medium rare and the crunchy leeks were a spectacular. A beautiful play on flavours and textures.


After all that food it was time to move onto desserts. Cucumber with reduced milk couldn't have been a more perfect dish. Light and refreshing and a wonderful way to start the sweet section.


The next dessert was fig with zabaglione - topped with 100% chocolate, which brought a perfect balance to the sweet fig underneath. TBH loved it.


Milk - I'm not really sure what everything was in this dish (I was pretty tipsy by this point) Lots of different white things and from what I remember not overly sweet, which is a winner in my book!


Petit fours - two dark chocolate truffles and two other "truffles" made up only of 3 ingredients: olive oil, vanilla and sugar! A total revelation and one of the best sweets I have ever eaten. There are no words to describe how good these were!


Looking back at the menu, we realised that only one of the dishes was a meat dish. TBH isn't the greatest lover of fish, but every dish was so interesting, so packed full of flavour that I don't think it bothered him (or if it did, he never mentioned it!) As you would expect with 9 courses, not every dish could be a winner. But by and large it was a pretty phenomenal meal! 

Service was commendable from the moment we stepped through the door. Everyone was extremely friendly and made us feel right at home. Our total bill was £291.25 which included 6 beers, 2 glasses of champers, 4 glasses of wine and service. It sounds a little obscene to say we spent that much on a meal, but when you consider the level of skill that goes into creating those dishes and the all-round experience, I would pay it again in a heartbeat! 

I loved having the menu presented to us at the end, with all our chosen drinks printed on as well. It’s a really lovely keepsake.


Bethnal Green will be a much poorer place without Viajante. I am glad that I got to experience it before it closes at the end of February, but I look forward to trying out The Chiltern Firehouse when Nuno Mendes moves there.

Until we eat again!


Viajante
www.viajante.co.uk 
Town Hall Hotel
Patriot Square
London, E2 9NF

Square Meal Viajante on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. Looks utterly wonderful! I'm so jealous that you got to go there in the end! I've booked a table at Chiltern Firehouse and I'm soooo excited about Mendes' food
    Angie
    www.silverspoonlondon.co.uk

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  2. I didn't realise they were already taking bookings at Chiltern Firehouse yet! Will need to get on it ASAP! :)

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