Life is for living eh? And I do know how to indulge. Viajante, new player in the playground that is London’s restaurant scene, offers something different in the gentle wilds of Hackney. Nestled in the new hotel at Bethnal Green Town Hall, it is a mere 10 minutes on the train from my flat, and I have found myself there three times. That’s not the only reason I have gone of course, being a Londoner, I am spoiled for places to spend my hard earned dosh and can relieve myself of my salary in eating establishments in record times should I choose to (I try not to very often, there is rent and all that!). I do like what Nuno Mendes is doing at Viajante though, and they do a tremendous posh lunch.
I had been awaiting the launch for some time. I must be one of the few bloggers in London at the time to miss his previous restaurant Bacchus, and I’d heard great things about what he would do in Hackney. Often hailed as one of the most interesting and innovating chefs in London, he started The Loft Project in between, and I never made it there either (althoguh I hope to soon). Sigh.
But then Viajante opened its doors, and against my normal rules, I visited. I rarely go to restaurants just after they open, preferring the hype to simmer down and the restaurant to settle in – I make exceptions sometimes but rarely blog them. I found myself there very early on, on the opening weekend. Aidan Brooks, up and coming chef and blogger extraordinaire (although sadly he has stopped), would be chef de partie there. I’ve met up with Aidan a number of times, in London and in Barcelona, so didn’t hesistate in checking it out.
The food was very good that evening, but the service remiss in parts. It had extended the soft launch so we let that slide, and I decided not to judge and to return later. I did so in mid-May for the 3 course lunch for £25. A bit of a bargain, especially compared to the loftier prices of the evening menu.
I love the room, it’s big and bright and so calm. The kitchen is open, and the chefs move swiftly but gently, artfully arranging delicate food on curious plates with Lithuanian dental tweezers, chosen for their size (remind me never, ever, to go to a dentist in Lithuania, the tweezers are enormous and would fill me with fear).
On this occasion we started with 3 amuse bouches, yes 3, a new record for Posh Lunch Club. Crostini de Romesco and Gordal Olives, Almonds, Jerez was a pretty, bright & piquant start. I loved a much underrated Smokey Aubergine with Soy Milk. I just love meatiness of aubergines and am forever blistering them on my stove as I can’t resist the smokey flavours they impart. Velvet smooth and rich with the gorgeous flatbread with aubergine caviar on top, I was disappointed to see this gone from the menu on my return last weekend. Thai Explosion II didn’t win me over, too coconuty and I found it a little unbalanced compared to the previous two.
Before the first course, hot bread from the oven with whipped butter and chicken skin arrived. Crisp rich bread with aerated & decadent creamy butter with purple flakes of jamon on top. I know! I want to know how they did that too.
We followed on that time with Textures of Beetroot & Crab, Green Apples & Whipped Goat Curd. Lovely, light, gentle and delicious and served with a beer that was aged for 2 years in barrel and contrasted wonderfully. A perfect pre-amble to the yeasty main course of Lemon Sole, Brioche, Yeast, Cauliflower. A dish designed to match the champagne that it was served with. Bold and almost aggressive, the mustard gnocchi felt like shouty bouncers protecting the delicate fish. I loved it.
An aniseed-y pre-dessert of lemon and thai basil sorbet cleared the palate perfectly. Dark Chocolate and Water for dessert was very nice and interesting although not amazing. I loved the cool granita on top which lightened the mood of the rich dark chocolate. The Gascony dessert wine served with it was rich and more-ish. I adored the cep chocolate truffle that was served with the coffee as petits fours. One of those right but wrong things, rich, so savoury, we’re talking like bovril here but in such a great way. Yum!
Matched drinks with three courses and all the extras like coffee came to £45 here. What next? Head back for 6.
6 courses! Yes. I waited a while as I had heard that the menu would change (approximately a dish changes every week). But, I’ve just realised that to cover 6 extra dishes now would be silliness, so I’ll do that tomorrow and leave you go in peace, to wonder what a 6 course lunch might hold. What else could you possibly think about?!
Meet you back here tomorrow, same time, same place to find out?
Vıajante, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF