Monday, July 12, 2010

Viajante - A Traveller's Tale

Not so long ago, East London was the endz, a veritable ghetto haven of Del Boys and wheeler dealers. If it starred in a rap video, it would have been a tough-as-nails-tattooed-to-the-hilt badass who flashed his gold teeth and flat cap with pride. Though noone would go so far as to say that the whole area has been gentrified, the fact remains that it has changed a lot.

Cue The Town Hall Hotel. Designer interiors and an impressive facade, along with a restaurant from one of London's most exciting young chefs Nuno Mendes (who was dutifully working in the kitchen on the Saturday we visited).

The chef himself

Viajante is the Portuguese word for traveller, a hint of the food you'll find on the table. Though I loathe the word fusion, I fail to grasp another that summarises what Mendes is doing here so well.

Our three course (along with 3 amuse bouches) menu took us on a culinary journey around the world, one that left us pleasantly full and feeling as if we had discovered something special. Particularly in stark contrast to Bar Boulud the day before.

Of the three amuse bouches, the Thai Explosion was my favourite – delicately Thai-spiced chicken sandwiched between two wafers and eaten in one go. A mouth-watering explosion of flavour that wouldn’t have gone amiss as a starter in itself if it was slightly larger.

The starter was a glutting of beetroot, small pieces of the vegetable cooked in different ways. Roasted, ribbons and jelly (filed away for future thought), with green apple, goats’ cheese, shredded crab and nuts. The dish was impressive, and an eye-opener for someone whose thoughts on beetroot range from finding it rather boring to a mild dislike.

I’m a sucker for a visual show, so it’s not without fond memories that I recall the lemon sole with asparagus, confit of egg yolk and tapioca. The yolk is presented on the plate, over which the tapioca is poured. Unlike many of these visual tricks, the final product was a taste of sheer brilliance and disappeared in a matter of minutes.

The lemon and Thai basil sorbet tasted like a jazzed up version of the lemon and mint thirst quenching drinks that are so popular in the Middle East. Whether you like it or not largely boils down to whether you like Thai Basil or not – I did and quite liked it, mumsy didn’t and it remained the only dish largely uneaten throughout the meal.

Dessert came in the form of an intensely chocolatey amalgamation, it’s a shame that the ‘ice’ quickly started melting into water and detracted from the rest of the flavours on the plate. Ambiguous as I am about chocolate, especially chocolate desserts, this was quite a winner.

In summary, despite some small misgivings along the way, Viajante stepped into the books as one of my favourite new-ish restaurants in the city so far. Bold, striking and innovative, it’s no wonder that Nuno Mendes is proving to be one of the darlings of the current social scene – I look forward to seeing bigger and even better things from him in the future.

Waiting rating: Stellar, especially as without it you wouldn’t know what you are eating!
Scoffing potential: Really rather good.
Wallet buddy: Lunch can be had three courses for 25 pounds – thumbs up. Expensive wine list. Thumbs down.
The crowd: A heart-warming dissection of London’s social milieu

Vıajante, Patriot Square,
E2 9NF
020 7871 0461


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