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|Address:||Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NU|
|Tel:||020 7871 0461|
|Price: £111.00||Wine: £30.00||Champagne: £56.00|
|Opening Hours:||Fri-Sun 12N-2pm Wed-Sun 6-9.30pm|
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Looking at Viajente’s website, I thought that I was going to hate the restaurant. It is full of that pretentious crap that curators insist on putting next to a picture in a gallery. You know, that sort of: “the artist was trying to show, through the subject’s nudity, the essential frailness of life; her fragility, yet hidden resolve”. Bollocks: he wanted to paint a girl with no clothes on. Nuno apparently wandered around a bit on some quest for enlightenment and interesting things to cook, all explained in flowery twaddle.
Whatever the myriad annoyances with the website, the restaurant is terrific: imaginative, inventive, achingly cool and stuck on Cambridge Heath Road, opposite the Probation Service and Bethnal Green & Bow Labour Party HQ. It is not, as advertised on that sodding website, on Patriot Square, for the simple reason that there is no such address. I know this as not only did the cabbie not know of its existence but, as he said: “it’s not on Google Maps”. The Knowledge be damned: if it’s not on Google Maps, It Does Not Exist.
Once found we were whisked into the dining room. This is split into two sections, the one that we were lucky enough to be seated in also containing the kitchen, where there seemed to be but three chefs, unhurriedly, unfussily going about their task. Actually “containing” doesn’t do the room justice: about half of the room has seats and the other is the kitchen. I am pretty sure that one of the chefs was Nuno himself, but I didn’t want to ask, just in case he actually spoke like the website is written.
From being seated and with a bottle of pink fizz opened, the dishes came thick and fast. Before the first of the six real dishes, we had six amuse bouche. Yes. Six. It sounds as though that is taking things a bit far, but each was half a mouthful no more. In fact, what with one of the amuse bouches and one of the real dishes each coming in two parts, and the obligatory pre-desert and petit fours, there were actually 16 different servings. I loved every single one.
The universal favourites were the peas with parmesan and the Iberica pork loan. The former came with a tube of pea mouse, wrapped in soy-milk skin (or yuba, as we found out it was called). Simple, intensely flavoured and clean. A truly splendid dish. The pork came with a succulent (and gritless) razor clam and barley. Again, truly excellent tastes, textures and combination. There were then foams of this, smears of that; there was also salt cod two ways (one an homage to Japan, the other to Nuno’s country of birth; Portugal), shrimp soup, paper thin slices of duck “ham”, crab croquettes and much more, each component inventively playing with the main ingredient, but each helping to enhance it, rather than overpowering it.
For our little group the oysters were the least popular, but only amongst the two who just don’t do oysters. It was their own fault: having been told at the outset that there was no menu and the meal would mainly be fish, and then being asked was there anything any of us didn’t eat, they could have piped up. They didn’t, so more for the rest of us who adore the bivalve.
As with the oysters, not every dish was a universal hit: the mackerel was (for the same people who didn’t like the oyster) a bit too fishy and the flowers that came with the fresh cheese amuse bouche failed to pass muster with one of our number. Oh, and that same person wasn’t so hot on the cep mushroom chocolate truffle, although that is maybe a challenge too far for most.
Given that there is no choice of menu, and you don’t actually know what any course is going to be until it arrives and is announced to you, there doesn’t seem much point in a wine list, or indeed choosing a single wine to accompany dinner, so we opted for the tasting selection. All perfectly matched the dishes to which they were accompanying, again being presented to the table with a little description, much as each dish is so announced. (The menu is actually emailed to you after dinner: how cool is that? I bet they send it from an iPad2. Not to be outdone, the wine list is stuck into an old book. In our case Long Way Round, that self-indulgent twaddle from Ewan McGregor and the other one. Maybe Nuno got his inspiration for the website from it).
Service was excellent; friendly, helpful and relaxed; letting us talk when it was clear that we wanted too and introducing us to the wines and the food when it was time.
So the East is the new West then? Well no; much like brown/orange/purple/whatever-colour-the-fashionistas-tell-you is most certainly not the new black, one top foodie joint with an E-something postcode does not a new foodie capital make. For certain this is a top foodie joint, but it is so easy going, so unpretentious, I wondered if I’d got the website mixed up with another restaurant.