The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green has a glittering history when it comes to restaurants. It was previously home to Nuno Mendes’ Michelin-starred Viajante and Lee Westcott’s Typing Room. The dining room’s latest incarnation is the brainchild of Argentinian chef Paulo Airaudo (who operates the much-praised Amelia in San Sebastian) and Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali, who was previously at Simon Rogan’s Aulis.
With such an all-round impressive pedigree comes high expectations, but Da Terra isn’t as high-falutin’ as you might expect. So while it is undoubtedly fine dining, there are flashes of playfulness, too, on a tasting menu that runs from 9 to 11 courses. Witness the scallop tartare topped with a sorbet-like dusting of apple marigold, served on a bed of pebbles that secrete a Lego diver figurine and a Lego shark.
Lego makes another appearance with the arrival of the bread. Heavenly-tasting butter, shaped to look like Lego bricks, is served alongside a large sourdough roll branded with tribal-style markings and a barbecued bone marrow which comes with its own miniature spoon for scooping out its soft innards.
Elsewhere, salty goats’ cheese tart topped with a sweet glaze of caramelised guava acts as an exemplary transitional course between the savoury and sweet, ahead of a rectangle of sorrel ice cream decorated with fresh fruits and flowers foraged, we’re told, from around east London. The final taste of the tasting menu is a surprisingly light petit-four of sugar-dusted doughnuts, puffed up with air and discharging a short but satisfying burst of dulce de leche.
Menus are paired with intriguing wines as well as a beer made from surplus bread, another example of Da Terra’s refreshing approach to high-end dining. Cosy, innovative and disarmingly fun, we’re certain that Da Terra has a bright future ahead.