It’s taken me a long time to get round to visiting Viajante. The irony of it all is that it’s just a 10 minute bus ride from my place. It’s been open barely a year, but in that time the quite brilliant Nuno Mendes has already managed to attain that first coveted Michelin star along with heaps of praise and accolades from bloggers and critics alike for his Blumenthal-like approach to molecular gastronomy. It seemed a worthy venue to mark the turn of my quarter century.
Despite it’s rather stately setting in the Old Bethnal Green Town hall, Viajante’s simple, laid back interior of birch-wood tables and azure blue chairs gives it the comfy feel of an East-end neighbourhood gem. Don’t be surprised to get a call ahead of the day checking for allergies as there’s no choice of food here. The only decisions you have to make are whether to embark on Mendes’ 6, 9 or 12 course tasting menu and if you want the flight of wines to accompany. Enough said – I’m going to let the photography take you on our incredible 9-course journey and round up with some after-thoughts on the evening’s highlights.
Here’s what I liked most about the evening:
The Bread & Butter: The potato baguettes were toasty warm and seemingly fresh-out-of-a-Parisian-bakery. And the speciality butters… god are they to die for. Silky smooth, subtle tones of beurre noisette and black pudding, and the occasional burst of flavour from the crispy bacon and chicken skin bits. It’s so good, I would revisit to eat their bread & butter alone.
The Textures: From the beancurd-like ‘milkskin’ in the Leek dish, to the Crispy Toasted ‘skin’ of the Seabass dish, to the melt-in-the-mouth Egg yolk of the Lobster dish… Mendes and team have dreamt up dish after dish of cutting-edge combinations with creative, unusual textures featuring throughout. The plating is all stunningly beautiful and everything was a joy to eat.
Dish of the night: If I had to choose one dish that topped them all, it would have to be the Squab. Roasted to pink perfection, the meat was packed with bagloads of gamey flavour which was wonderfully offset by the sweetness of the beets. Fan-fecking-tabulous.
The Wine: What’s not to like about a 9-glass flight of wine =). They even started us off with complimentary glasses of birthday bubbly!
Looking back on the experience, I don’t actually have a bad word to say about Viajante at all. If anything, the only unpleasantness came from the rather demanding tourist couple beside us…. scrutinising each course in skepticism trying to find fault with it where there was none and animatedly demanding their drinks be served a certain temperature. I thought the front of house team dealt with them brilliantly – patient and diplomatic in keeping them happy.
Thank you Viajante for a truly memorable 25th.