Sometimes getting to the place is half the fun… Nuno Mendez (he of Viajante and the Loft Project) brings you The Corner Room. A proper unmarked, no entrance, n information New York speakeasy of a restaurant hidden in a boutique hotel in Bethnal Green. Finding it is like playing hipster hide and seek.
When you eventually guide your way through the too cool for signage, Wallpaper* fetishising hotel front of house that hosts the chic little bistro and breakfast room (if you can even guess the name of the hotel I'll be impressed) you arrive, weary and a little fecked off from the effort in a dainty white, light, tiled space, carved out of the surrounding institutional marble like a Habitat styled hobbit hole. Despite the eulogising that surrounds stablemate Viajante, the Corner Room is currently unmarked territory, certainly we had no problems with a 2 for 7, but it did fill rapidly and there's no booking. Get there early because let's face it, you're unlikely to be just passing.
Starters come in around £6 and most mains are £12. Seasonal and interesting, a baby brother of the more studied El Bulli school influenced food artistry next door, I could have gone for any combination. You'll have to pop in and check the menu as they've got no phone number and no details on the website. I eyed up a wonderful dish of heritage (read weird coloured and shaped) tomatoes with mozzarella and what looked unseasonably like asparagus (caveat, was paying attention to my companion's conversation, may not have been asparagus)
Judging by some of the more rabidly positive comments posted online already, one of the house hits looks to be a wonderfully balanced squid dish, meltingly tender tubes served with Jersey Royal potatoes, seaweed and samphire sitting on a slick of squid ink and a glorious fennel infused oil. It makes the other starter, a ceviche of stone bass, seem slightly muted. A good wedge of firm white fish, but none of the scattered oils and 'erbs really cut through with any conviction.
It was a main of two halves too (slightly). Turbot poached with artichoke and pancetta was pleasant enough, it didn't set my world alight, but anywhere else would have been a solid thumbs up. Next to a slow cooked and pink centred lozenge of pork served with a Portuguese bread pudding it very much drifted into second place. The herby sponge is baked with red pepper before being fried in butter, a crisp fluffy smack of taste against the soft pork flesh.
We didn't have time for any of the desserts available for a fiver at the bottom of the menu but did sample an excellent grassy fresh Portugeuse Vinho Verde from a short but functional wine list with prices hovering around the late 20's. It feels a lot like Angela Hartnett's, similarly excellent, Whitechapel Gallery Dining Rooms, itself a diffusion range from a chart topping talent capable of filling the intimate space many times over. If I lived close enough to either, I'd be there weekly.