Trend is both a blessing and a curse in East London for any business owner trying to win over the sensitive crowd. Pop-up stalls seems to be a recipe for success judging by the number of them I’ve seen over the past years. There are however restaurants that’s proved their right of existence and Viajante is one of them.
Located just north of Bethnal Green station inside the retro chic Town Hall Hotel Viajante offers one of the most innovative menus I’ve tried in London. The Michelin star and 59th place on the San Pellegrino list Viajante holds is the result of Nuno Mendes’ international experience and hard work. Viajante means traveller in Portugese. The name was chosen to reflect the international staff and knowledge behind the food.
The first thing that you will notice when you walk into the relaxed dining room is the open kitchen. The chefs lined up were already in full concentration dressing the plates for the first guests of the evening. Staff were friendly, approachable and knew what they were talking about. Many of the dishes we tried in the 9 course tasting menu revealed interesting flavour combinations that at times challenged what I would consider pleasant, but they stayed on the right side.
Amêljoa Bulhão Pato
Parsnip and Vanilla
Amaranth with Sorrel
Yeast and Potatoes
Gordal Olive Soup
Bread and Butter
Palamos Prawns with Pied de Mouton and Grelot Onion
Carrot with Buttermilk and Horseradish
Topinambur with Rosehip and Crab
Halibut with Seaweed Sofrito
Cod Trip with Onion and Potato
Lobster and Braised Chicken Skin
Old Dairy Cow with Fermented Leek and Walnuts
Iberico pluma with Carot Miso and Watercress
Cucumber with Reduced Milk
Fig with Zabaglione
This is a modern take on the classic Portugese clam dish. I don’t know if the new interpretation improved it. Flavours were nice and delicate but the soft gel-like texture felt wrong.
Visually I was intrigued by the Oreo-like pieces on the plate. As expected it was more than that. I quite liked the mellow flavours in the parsnip and vanilla cream in between the black sesame biscuits.
This plate was all about texture with the crunchiness of the Amaranth. The flavour was more subtle with hints of herbs.
Many small things on a small stone was my first thought when seeing this. Flavour-wise I would say it was as complex as the name was confusing. It was the thinly sliced Ibérico ham that was the backbone of the different flavours intermingling in the small package of potato and yeast purée.
This creamy solied called soup had a rich and creamy olive character with a light peppery bite. Not exciting, but pleasing.
I really enjoyed the bread. The potato baguette had a crispy crust and was a delight with the brown butter topped with chicken skin. The soft pancetta sourdough bread had more flavour to it and was accompanied with the lighter of the two butters, hay-smoked butter with almonds. The butter was pretty ambiguous with a lot of things going on. It’s definitely not purist butter but it’s guilty good.
After the appetizers came this amazing dish of succulent prawns and a very intense sauce. The Grelot Onion added some sharpness to the dish.
Next was this playful plate of crunchy carrots with a sharp horseradish cream. Flavours were straightforward and in harmony.
The halibut in the pig trotter stock was very well cooked. I am a bit sceptical on the skin though which was a little gummy in its texture. The Seaweed Sofrito added fresh saltiness to the fish.
Here is yet another plate packed with flavours. The chicken skin was a nice addition but the dish would have been as nice without. The broth was simply amazing with the same concentrated character as the one in the Palamos Prawn dish.
The Jerusalem artichoke had a soft crunch with a earthy scent. It was perfect with crab and the sauce which carried a nice zing that I believe came the rose hip.
The playful way to serve the leek, thinly shredded over the beef was quite a success. It added volume and depth to the dish. The beef was very tender.
This is my absolute favourite of the whole meal. I’ve never tasted a pork cut with this perfect balance of chewing resistance. It was full of flavours as well. I will definitely eat more of should cut in the future. The carrot miso was too over-flavoured for me.
After a stunning meat dish it was time to move on to desserts. This interlude was very refreshing and light.
The cucumber was faint and the condensed milk (I think) carried just enough sweetness to tease the palate for the desserts.
I was not a very big fan of this dessert. It was something with the fig or goat’s curd I can’t put a finger on which overpowered the whole dish. The Zabaglione was well-executed, light and airy.
Milk in all its shapes. Meringue, thin crispy milk skin and condensed milk. I loved this dessert carrying the subtle sweetness as opposed to the big flavours in the last dessert.
We were not told the ingredients when it was served. The white pieces were cold, chewy and slightly sweet. Never could we guess that it was a simple mix of vanilla, olive oil, water and sugar chilled down! The other pair were salty crust pralines with white chocolate and porcini mushroom.
I had high expectations prior the visit but I was positively surprised. Each dish had a strong character and expressive flavours. This of course could play out the opposite way which it did for one dish for me. However, the highs of the other dishes made this an insignificant “but”. The tasting menu was well composed, the strong flavours were kept together harmoniously. If I may use the word concept I think everything was cohesive: food, interior, the people and the hotel sharing the same roof. I will without doubt be back again, hopefully soon!
For more photos from Viajante, please visit my Flickr set.
Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square
London E2 9NF
Tel. +44 (0)20 7871 0461