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Before the inevitable food blaggers post a topic (and links to their blogs) on Viajante I thought I'd pen a few thoughts on the meal last night

Nuno Mendes trialed many of the dishes at the supper club The Loft he's now opened Viajante in the old Bethnal Green Town hall and it currently offers a 6 , 9 and 12 course tasting menu.

Viajante

In terms of decor its modern and the open kitchen will no doubt delight many who get to see Nuno Mendes and his team hard at work.

The lighting is subdued which had the advantage of preventing the girl next to us from producing any decent photo's of the dishes(or so she said to her party.) That said we had to endure a series of constant flash photography, I suspect that there will be more of that to come.

My overall impression was good and the dishes were presented beautifuly. I am not sure they are going for big strong flavours and the emphasis was on subtley elegance and restraint rather than all out fireworks.

Does everything work? Perhaps not, some of the flavours were muted and just didn't shine through. That said, I'd expect that and it was an interesting meal nonetheless

A razor clam starter was beautiful but the dill garnish overpowered what was a subtle dish

The stand out dishes for me

Thai explosion amuse

The Spring Garden - Vegetable starter

Beetroot, Pickled Roasted Pureed and Jelly

The beef with miso and burnt fennel though the Vegetable jus was weak and miso a touch too strong

Lemon Thai Basil pre dessert

The Cep chocolate truffle petit four

There is certainly a deft hand when it comes to the treatment of vegetables too they were all delicious.

The team were charming throughout though some may find them aloof and the chef himself is not averse to serving as and when required which is perhaps fitting in such an open kitchen.

Those things that didn't work so well for me

The Carrot sorbet dessert - whilst very good the carrot top granita added little and it all felt a biot busy - pared back a little it could be very good

Dill - I am not sure if they had a strong batch but it kept cropping up everywhere and was a little overpowering and out of place at times

The Pork shoulder - deliberately underseasoned to account for the caper garnish it was just a little dull and bland. Though it was cooked to perfection nonetheless.

Whilst it is perhaps easy to pick fault with such an avant garde offering their ambition is clear and you have to wish them all the best for it. The offering is new and relatively unique in london so it will intrigue many into giving it a go. Whether everyone likes it I'm not so sure and the location might be seen as difficult. That said I am sure people will travel for cooking of this standard. And they told me that they were almost booked up for the next 2 months, which I suppose bodes well.

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You're assuming bloggers have that sort of money and most don't, hence the plethora of ethnic restaurant blog reports containing the inevitable 'we ate better in a small shack in Northern China when we were travelling last year' type comments.

Mendes wears a pair of bloody tweezers around his neck! To adjust the presentation. God help us.

Surely this is now old hat? Recessions demand something different. Bistro is becoming boringly repetitive as a call to arms, but even so there's no doubting the joy of eating food that doesn't demand you genuflect before tucking in.

As to the area, he's bang in the right place for his type of act. You can't question his savvy when it comes to identifying and locating the target market.

There's a review here actually by the lady who was one of the stars, for my money, of Come Dine With Me a while back. She seems to know one end of a saucepan from another

S

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Actually I was refering to those who do have the money and who use Egullet as linking board to their own blogs and there are a few!

Of course there are reviews of Viajante elsewhere. I believe there'll be one in the Evening Standard tonight. I was starting a topic to garner the views of those on Egullet who are usually an informed bunch.

I've heard the recession demands "a new direction, this is old hat" argument and I have some sympathy for it, but what are you suggesting in its place? I think everyone accepts we are in challenging economic times but it doesn't necessarily equate that we should consign oursleves advocating a new conservatism in food does it? Chef's will always strive to create and seek a new direction and you assume Mendes' own direction is already passe.

Mendes is undoubtedly bringing some of the change that we've seen in Europe to London. Yes he's not alone in this pursuit and whether it will continue this way is difficult to say but there are many who will view this as exciting progress.

Like I said it might not be up everyones street, or I suspect Sunbeams, but I assure you there are plenty who will coo and genuflect.

Furthermore I'm not questioning his savvy on location, its both near the city and Shoreditch and so should do well. Moreover as you'd expect of an old town hall the building is beautiful. My point was it'll be a destination place regardless of location.

As for come dine with me, it creates stars? interesting.

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I must say, that I was also very impressed with my lunch, a mere week after opening. Had 6 courses, all of which were faultless, without any technical mistakes. Products were very good too, and the dishes all worked brilliantly. The room was beautiful, and service very friendly, and efficient, if maybe not quite as polished as in the Gavroche or some other multi-starred eateries.

In addition, the wine list looked proimising (they have massively increased the offer since my visit), as he employs Mugaritz's ex-sommeliere.

Stand outs for me: The same beef with Miso, a celery dish, and a lemon sole one. The other three were with one exception (beet/crab) very good, and therefore I've booked a return already.

I absolutely loved it, even if he might get a few ideas from Noma, or other restaurants, but then, which chefs don't?

That is one of the best parts of this place: It is the only convincing modern restaurant in London. I don't know any other place, which serves edible and well-made modern food here. Lest sunbeam can show me one that is actually better, I am happy to go here.

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Here we go. THis is the review of my first meal here. I wouldn't be able to say what could have been any better, and can't really see how some have attacked this restaurant on some rather dubious grounds.

As I've mentioned above, apart from a rather boring combo of beet/goat's cheese and crab, the meal was great. The lemon sole was beautifull cooked, and worked perfectly with the other ingredients, the pigs neck was tender, a lttle crispy on the outside and got all the punch it needed from the capers and the salad cream. The celery dish was interesting too, and even the chocolate fondant was fun.

The wine list has been stocked up by now, I hear, and should be rather interesting, given the restaurant's wine consultant.

I'm going to go back soon, as it really was very enjoyable.

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Lunch – May 2010

I didn’t really catch any of the descriptions of the food - my increasingly poor hearing vs too much background noise is not a good combination. They also don’t provide a menu which coupled with the wonderful off-the-wallness of the food makes it just that more difficult to fathom what exactly it is you are about to put in your mouth.

Amuse – crisp pastry rectangle with alternating dots of green & black olive puree (tapenade?) - with slices of large green olive. Stunning.

A tasting of aubergine: small cup of aubergine cream, aub’ jelly and aub’ caviar – topped with little crisp sandwich of aub’ pate(?). Quite wonderful.Chick skin sandwich – skin crisped and filled with chicken pieces bound with quail egg mayo – v interesting.

Single long and delicate baguette with whipped butter doused in purple powder – presumably beetroot. Only time bread appeared which was of the very few bad points – need bread to soak up wonderful sauces. Unconvinced that this works as a course.

Squid tartare with sliced radish/veg/greens and squid ink granite – unbelievably refreshing

A taste of beetroot followed – beets down in many different ways – boiled, pickled, raw, jellied. I really liked the earthiness of this dish

Celeriac also prepared many differ ways ‘though I do not recall anything raw – but covered with stunning onion and tapioca gravy. I know - sounds awful - but this was the knock out dish of the day. Enough to make me want to come back almost immediately.

Fish dish was lemon sole and gnocchi – slightly ruined by too much and too thin sauce (fish poaching liquor?) – bread sorely missed here

Couple of pork pieces covered in spice with anchovy sauce – a very green dipping sauce (rocket? not sure) and some cabbage leaves. Lovely.

Thai basil and lemon sorbet was great (although not quite in the same league as le Champignon Sauvage’s basil tulip sorbet)

Chocolate dessert – sorbet, granite, jelly – was fine but not really to my taste

Over all – a fabulous meal. The fish dish was the only real disappointment – just didn’t work or couldn’t really compete with the fireworks elsewhere. I really love to see a chef take the simple ingredients and make them sing – my kind of food. Wine list needs some work ‘though – needs a few more wines at the lower end for those of us who come for the food. Also if reserving – try and go for a table in the front room as the kitchen it is fully open - not even a glass partition between you & them. Another particularly fine touch is that the chefs themselves do some of the serving.


Edited by tony h (log)

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Whenever I think of the East End and indeed Bethnal Green I immediately think of the notorious Kray twins. The gangland duo lived here, and they killed George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub in nearby Whitechapel,and brutally murdered Jack "The Hat" Mc Vitie during their frightening reign.

The Bethnal Green that we visited seemed more in tune with a kiss and a cuddle rather than a slap or worse.

No knuckle butties are served at Viajante thankfully, just some very intriguing food.

Much travelled PortuGeezer chef, Nuno Mendes has made this area his home, indeed he now lives above the shop, literally.

Quite an appealing place to live, a very fine grade 2 listed building, once the Town Hall and now a trendy boutique hotel. This is a very sexy space.

The restaurant proper is flooded with light through its high windows and is dominated at one end by an open kitchen perhaps the like of which you may not have seen before.

We were late and if this interupted the service it showed because initially it stuttered a bit.

Perhaps the best table, for foodies at least, was the one that we were given, directly in front of the pass.

We felt however that we were the ones on show not the chefs and my wife felt uncomfortable with that.

There is however another room for the shy or romantics.

The menu, or lack of one, is in "surprise" format of six,nine or twelve courses. We chose the six courser at £60 hoping that we would not leave hungry.

As wine is of no real interest we chose by the glass and I had a speciality beer from the short list.

A trio of amuse started the ball rolling they were,

CROSTINI of GORDAL OLIVES, ROMESCO, ALMONDS, and JEREZ.

SMOKEY AUBERGINE with SOY MILK

THAI EXPLOSION 11.

The crostini was wafer thin toast, topped with almonds, tapenade, romesco sauce, micro herbs and gherkin and went down a treat. As did the Thai influenced chicken sandwich, which consisted of outer slivers of crispy chicken skin, a thai spiced chicken mousse with a hint of coconut.

The Smokey Aubergine dish was the only starter that I caught on camera, this was served cold, (as a number of dishes were). on top were crunchy nut filo pastry strips. The glass contained some yummy aubergine caviar and some jelly

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Visually like a couple of skinny fish the bread and butter was an unusual combo, the bread being rather pleasant, served with sweet, brown whipped butter flecked with chicken skin, and purple potato powder.

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SQUID TARTARE and PICKLED RADISHES, SAMPHIRE and

FROZEN SQUID INK JUS. Was quite a surprise texturally and very comforting on a hot day.

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Next up was a homage to the humble BEETROOT, in textures, GREEN APPLE and GOATS CURD. From memory, roasted, pureed, pickled, jellied? Again a good starter and served cold. The tartness of the apple comlimented the dish.

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The very unusual vessel that the KING CRAB with ASPARAGUS ribbons and COCONUT TAPIOCA was served on took my breath away. Nuno Mendes served this dish as he did with a few others.

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The kitchen was an orderly environment with hardly a word spoken. Mendes himself is quietly spoken and explained the dishes in detail as he served them.

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LEMON SOLE and BRIOCHE, YEAST and CAULIFLOWER had a crispy topping and was served with a yeast foam. It looked a dogs dinner, but ate rather well, in fact it ate very well indeed.

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PIGS NECK with PRAWN and RYE was sadly a dish that I did not photograph however I recall it being pleasant enough but not having the wow as some of the others on offer.

Again the next dish I can not recall eating, I know that I should, and even seeing the photo again I,m not sure so will not comment on it.

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LEMON and THAI HOLY BASIL sorbet, was a zingy palate cleanser before the chocolate fest to follow.

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DARK CHOCOLATE and WATER was an homage to chocolate with the granita there simply to cut through the richness.

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PETIT FOURS were Cep infused chocolate bon bons with a glass of creme catalan which, completed a teasing and thought provoking meal

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Clearly this was a bit of a marathon and we only had the six courser, and no, we were not hungry afterwards.

I,m sure I have heard that Reni Redzepi (amongst others) has influenced and indeed advises?, and if this is the case it certainly shows. This is sophisticated, creative and complex food that strangely quite a few people just dont get. I personally think its a bit precious and based on the food that we have eaten this year its an instant Michelin star.

Its not cheap as you may expect and you could easily notch up a £200 bill for two. A good value £25 three course lunch is on offer although I can not comment on it as to quantity as the portion size that we had was quite small.


Edited by david goodfellow (log)

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What are the menu prices ? Was it busy ?

They were £60, £70, £85, for 6, 9, 12 courses and on reflection the £70 deal is a steal, three courses for an extra tenner, staggering really.

Wine flights are £30, £45 & £60.

The wine list is short with just two? bottles under £30.

For a Saturday afternoon it was quite busy,(well over half full) especially bearing in mind this is some serious foodie hangout, so casual is not really catered for. Having said that though the £25 lunch deal must actually tempt more than a few punters through the door.

This is a very exciting place to eat at right now.

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Viajante is defo worth a visit, I'd a good lunch here 2 weeks ago, Blueberry dessert was awesome.

IMG_4723

Was that the offer for 45 pounds? Looks like lots of dishes :P

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Looks promising.

Looking forward to dining at viajante this week

12 courses hope it is worth the calories.

Px

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I normally don't like no-choice menus, and when I try one I expect much beyond the ordinary. And a previous day lunch a Koffmann's, which we love and always come out happy from, set a high comparison.

But lunch here today had it all (apart from choice): technique, balance, power, amusement, tradition, innovation, generosity. Not a single dish disappointed or wasn't interesting. Really hard to pick one, but as it is so hard to impress with vegetable-centered dishes, I'll pick the butternut squash, milk skin and lardo. Though the bread porridge with egg, sweetcorn and girolles, redolent of tradition, was moving.

What can I say, for us, compared with the relatively recent experience at Roganic to which Viajante somehow compares in approach, this one was on a completely different, far superior level, a triumph of style and substance.

A bargain, too, at £50 for six courses. With a £50 Chorey Les Beaune, coffee, free water, and service charge, it came to about £175 for two, almost can't believe it.


Edited by Man (log)

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I went here a few months ago, and I though it was terrible. Very few dishes that worked at all and quite a few that were actively unpleasant -- and I consider myself an adventurous eater. Quite a heavy Japanese influence, but too much use of slippery textures. Only one dish was actually delicious which was a quite classic pork dish.

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If you are an adventurous eater try again, you may find some joy - the menu may have changed quite considerably since then. The dishes seemed pretty solid to me.

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Just got back from doing the 12 courses last night, my second time in 3 months, so I guess it comes as no surprise I personally think they're doing something right. On both occasions I've been taken aback by each and every dish. Whilst I preferred some over others, just through personal likes, every plate had massive depth of flavour, without appearing too tricksy or over-worked, with a huge amount of thought and skill applied to texture.

Recent highlights included razor clam with cider and mussel emulsion; roasted parsnips with truffle and onion; red mullet, citrus granola and pickled apricot and the most amazing pigeon with red cabbage, the later veg coming pureed with caraway, juniper and chocolate that made for a truly lasting impression.

Desserts didn't let things down. A very milky reduced milk sorbet paired with various preparations of cucumber and a chewy mandarin sorbet, using some gum I've never heard of, was every bit as innovative and good as you could hope for.

Relatively speaking it's belting value. £90 may seem a lot, but on top of all the dishes, there's a round of canapes; two amuse bouche; homemade bread with two different types of whipped butter (jamon and chicken skin!) and petit fours, which includes the often mentioned mushroom and chocolate truffle. It's generous to say the least.

Service was very good indeed. Chef's frequently brought dishes direct from the open kitchen Noma-styles, though that's not say the dedicated front of house team were any less charming or capable. We arrived slightly lubricated from a lunch elsewhere and they took it in a very jovial, understanding stride - a laugh was had by all.

Put simply, as innovative degustation experiences go Viajante is right up there.


Edited by marcusjames (log)

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Ooh, JR had an opposite impression to mine. I went there expecting gimmicks and instead found surprising but well assorted flavours and inventive reinterpretations of popular and world cuisine. He went there expecting...well I'm not sure what but for sure came out underwhelmed.

Still, one of his better reviews I thought, with descriptions that jump out of the page and killer putdowns.

"Telling us that parsnips have been treated like meat doesn't make them meat, even when you serve them with smears of truffle and onion and squishy beads of vinegary tapioca. It just makes for a brown starchy plateful that looks like it's ready for the dishwasher before you've got started"

Nice one. Makes me want to go back just to see if it's true.

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Putting the actual food to one side I think there are some aspects of JR's review that are quite unfair.

I agree it's not cheap, but it is value for money. You get an awful lot of bang for your buck which Jay fails to acknowledge. And it's not as if Nuno doesn't use luxury ingredients; note lobster and truffle get mentioned in that review. Again, the wine list may not start at the obligatory £20, but it is full of interesting quality and their mark-ups aren't as severe as some more central peers I could mention.

The dining room was packed and humming on all my recent visits. It's not a big room, but it certainly had atmosphere and was a million miles away from 'gently hushed'.

The Heston comment is perhaps most ridiculous. Has the Fat Duck closed all of a sudden? He didn't move on with Dinner, rather created a concept and style of food that could accommodate 100 covers and had some distinction from the Bray flagship.


Edited by marcusjames (log)

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Again, the wine list may not start at the obligatory £20, but it is full of interesting quality and their mark-ups aren't as severe as some more central peers I could mention.

I too could mention...and in the future I will make a point of mentioning the most outrageous markups I manage to spot. I have started here in the thread on Alyn Williams.

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Went to Viajante for my 50th and I will try and upload some photos at a later date, but have to say I loved it. My wife had kindly booked the private dining room where we were served by our own 2 chefs (one ex-Mugaritz) and waiter and for £135 a head for 6 courses and wine - that to me is value albeit at a slightly elevated level! The main thing to note is the complete clarity of the flavours and freshness, there is some tricksy technique but all in the interest of flavour....and I loved the cepes and chocolate truffle. Not all our party were adventurous or experienced diners but everyone loved it....the nearest you can get to El Celler de Can Roca in London.....so if Jay thinks this is old-fashioned food he had better tell the Roca brothers!

We went to Bacchus a few times and were a bit concerned whether experimentation might be at the expense of deliciousness as it was there, but Nuno Mendes seems to have honed his skills to avoid this at Viajante....I doubt Michelin will move this up but it's borderliine 2 stars and certainly more interesting than a lot of the more feted London dining experiences.....IMHO!


Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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Wow Gavin 135 pounds per head and only 2 for food in Hardens and there was me wondering what these bankers spent their money on. :rolleyes:


Sid the Pig

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