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The Corner Room


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When I read that Portugeezer chef Nuno Mendes had opened a more user friendly, (think casual and easier on the wallet) eatery, above Viajante in the old Town Hall building in Bethnal Green, I just had to give it a whirl.

I am an unashamed fan of Mendes, and along with others I tipped him for big things, and Michelin awarded him a star within the first year of opening. However having said that he is not without his critics.

So, we entered through the Viajante doors to reception, only to be guided down a very long corridor. We could feel the buzz from a rather full Viajante and I was slightly disappointed to be eating at the opposite end of the building. " Is Nuno in today?" I enquired. " No, he's not "

Up some delightful stairs, past another kitchen, into the dining room proper. What strikes you immediately is the hanging industrial style lights and how bright the room is.

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We chose a sticky table in the corner. Of course this was also the "rocky table". Now we have not had a rocky table for some good while, so it did have some amusement value, especially when our willing waitress dropped down on her knees to try to correct the problem. This created much amusement from some of the surrounding tables. Thank goodness I was with the wife, it all looked a bit, well I don't know, but it caused a few giggles.

The menu we were presented with was rather limited and not the menu which was e-mailed to me a couple of days before, and I was assured that this would be the menu on the day. Today's menu was limited as it was a brunch menu until 3 o clock when the dinner menu would kick in. Why was this not explained at the time of my enquiry?

By way of explanation, they do not accept bookings, there is no website, so you have to get information through the Viajante phone lines with regard to opening times, menus, etc.

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Mackerel with melon and rhubarb granita (£7) was not well received by my wife, who expected it to be cooked to extract more flavour from the fish. I thought it to be fine and in any event fairly typical of Mendes's interpretation. I rather liked the addition of pine nuts and the little slivers of mild onion.

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Hansen and Lyderson smoked salmon & scrambled eggs (£8) As good a brunch dish that you could get. Super tasty salmon and just set wobbly egg, whats not to like? A rather generous portion too. The brioche that was served with it, we both fealt was too sweet for the dish.

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Pork and Portugese bread pudding (£12) arrived at the table looking scarily rare. I suspect a few would send this dish back, but not us. Amazingly tender but in need of some seasoning we both enjoyed not only the pork but the sweet red peppered bread pudding. A dish I would happily eat again.

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Looking the business on the plate, the Lamb rump and belly with "true baby" vegetables, (£12) was a failure in the mouth. Tasteless lamb, yes seriously lacking, and again devoid of salt. The lamb belly was pointless. Undercooked and therefore fatty and inedible, (see the photo) it ended up where it belonged, in the bin. Don't ask what the "true baby" veg were, I could not be bothered to ask.

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Hackney Wild bread basket (£3) with butter is from the excellent e5 bakehouse and did not arrive on time. We ordered it at the start of the meal but we still had not received it by the time we had finished our starters. So I cancelled it. We were however compted it, so it was gracefully accepted.

Another menu, the dinner menu, was now in place so we chose a dessert from that.

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Eating better than perhaps it looked the Caramelised fennel, pineapple and smoked pastry (£5) was just about worth its price tag.

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I will allow the chef some artistic licence in his description of the next dish Chocolate brownie with fresh berries & creme catalan (£5) The "berries" plural, were one and a half strawberries. Where were the raspberries, tay berries, loganberries, blackberries even? The brownie was cake ("let them eat it") two slices of it. Not the squidgy, gooey thing that we were expecting. Oh and did I mention that it was on the dry side.

We skipped coffee, as we normally do whilst I contemplated a long drive back to the Midlands.

We enquired if Nuno Mendes had any direct input into the kitchen and our rather nervous waitress informed us the he was in charge of four dining operations in the hotel and sometimes popped in to this kitchen, Also that the chefs alternate somewhat. Well can I suggest Sunday's chef spend a bit more time in the Viajante kitchen before he makes a return here.

Service was under pressure early on, and it showed. Not enough staff (two) at lunch, more arrived just before three, to ease that pressure.

A rather hit and miss type of meal really. There is skill, it just lacks refinement. If you live within a reasonable distance its worth a try, just don't cross London, as we did, you will find better closer to home.

Strangely I would return, I think its worth another chance, but my wife would not, she made that plain on the way back in the car. So that's it then. No chance.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Personally I felt he was a fraud from the day I ate at his original pub place in Hoxton. He was hiding lack of basic skills behind a smokescreen of 'clever' and big talk. He chooses his locations well to do that kind of thing.

Sometimes a dish comes off , most times it doesn't. It's not professional and it's not cheap.

He is now obviously getting cocky thinking, and with good reason, he can get away with it. You can't blame him, there are a lot of mug bloggers out there who are happy to kiss his rear.

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Indeed no wonder it was tasteless, I can cope with sous vide for cuts that benefit from long slow cooking but whats the point with other cuts? I think I'm going to open a restaurant and advertise dishes "complete with Maillard reactions" - I reckon I could be on to a winner

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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This just takes the piss. Is this a reflection of starred cooking? I mean really? Who in their right mind would want to eat and pay good money for this sort of kak? Im glad you went David and not me. That really is 'boil in the bag' at its very worst. Tell me whats the point in rare f..king pork. Its pretention at is best in my book. Im absolutely stunned at just what some chefs and restaurants can get away with and be lauded at the same time. Me thinks something in this industry is totally f.u.b.a.r. Jesus Christ.......!!

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I couldn't careless how the Spanish consume their pig, Im not Spanish. To me, it doesn't look right. Im all for pink pork but that is too rare. I reckon most folk on here, if they are being honest, would not enjoy being served meat in that fashion. Certain meats do not benefit being seved so bloody rare and pork is one of them, regardless of any health issuses. I suspect 99 percent of the UK dining out public would feel the same. But if that sort of thing makes you drool then you go for it pal.

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well its one thing for you to say its not to yr taste - another to call it pretentious, but whatever.

david i was surprised that yr food was underseasoned - the one problem i had when i went to the corner room was that everything was quite salty! also i had the lamb and it had a lot more browning happening on it. sounds like they have some problems w/ consistency

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Thanks for all the comments. Its clear rare pork is not to most peoples taste, on this forum at the least.

My question is this. Who, if any of you would have actually sent it back? Bear in mind of course that we thought the flavour to be rather good. That was clearly down to sourcing.

Richard, your a chef, would you subject the kitchen to grief.

The lamb was poor taste wise, tender but vapid. The belly was piss poor (we left it uneaten) and I made the point to our waitress and also commented on the seasoning. She returned with apologies from the chef.

Would you have sent that back?

We did in fairness eat most of it, at least my wife did, as it was her dish.

Tim, I,ve not been to Spain for some years, interesting how they eat their pork there. As you touched on, and I'm glad you reported to have been, consistancy could be the problem as the chefs rotate, according to our waitress.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Aside from the culinary merits, I think it would be at least courteous - and pretty normal too - on their part to check beforehand with the customer that rare pork would be OK. For me it's a failure of service before a failure of cooking.

Given that it is a safe assumption that many people in the UK don't like rare pork (nor in Italy, for that matter), it seems to me they are deliberately trying to shock. For me, not a good sign.

Anyway, thanks for sacrificing yourself for the community.

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Evening/ Morning David

Looks like you've done it this time!!

I would not like to be served lamb or pork in the fashion you were.

I rarely complain when I dine out, instead I simply would never return or recommend. That would definately be the case here, I would suspect.

I respect the 'pro' comments on here with regards to rare pork but Im not sold on it one bit. Your food looked simply awful. I would have gone out business long ago if I cooked for customers in such a style. At the end of the day I just think you have to remember where you are and who your cooking for. Your review shows avante guard cooking at its worst.

Edited by Richard1 (log)
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Come on chaps.

Is it just me or has everyone been under a rock for the last year?

This is not avante-garde cooking. It is very common to have Iberico pork (which I think is what they are serving at Corner Room - check out how dark the colour is verses normal white pork) done pink in the middle.

An example - I picked up some skirt and some pluma from Jack O'Sheas the other day (Selfridge's concession, not the main shop) and this was exactly what the chap was telling me. Don't by any means cook it all the way through. So I didn't. Delicious.

Another example - the Opera Tavern has been attracting raves for its Iberico Presa (). Again exactly the same thing - the meat is cooked rare inside that (plus the luxurious marbling) it was makes it unctiously delicious (although I have to say the burger is wildly overrated; not a scrap of foie gras in sight).

Another example - iberico pork pluma cooked rare at the recently opened and well-acclaimed Jose (http://www.swedishmeatballeatslondon.com/2011/06/jose-bermondsey.html).

From a safety point of view it is perfectly correct to serve good quality pork rare or medium. The reason we have pork overdone is to do with historical issues around the trichosis worm which is largely minimal nowadays, certainly in well sourced meat. If in doubt you can always freeze the meet and defrost before cooking which will kill any worms.

From am empirical point of view I would take a tender, juicy rare piece of pork versus a hard well cooked pork chop any day. But then again some people prefer chicken breast over chicken thigh too. No accounting for taste.

In fact what people should be outraged at is that pork isn't cooked rare or medium more often. For the record until this year there were only two places I have ever been served pork done nicely medium, as it should be. The first was Evans Gourmet Cafe on Lake Tahoe (lovely place. I'll even forgive them lobbing a strawberry into one of the mains).

The second was Le Gavroche.

And if its good enough for Michel Roux Jr then its good enough for me.

J

PS I dropped by the Corner Room for a lovely spot of brunch a month or too ago. While finding the room is a complete pain (despite it being in a supposedly boutique hotel the buildling bears a frighting resemblance to a former local government office building), the food is delicious. I had some asparagusy egg salad thing, the aforementioned pork and bread pudding and some crema catalana to finish. Lovely place for a weekend bite.

PPS I do agree on lamb belly though. Horrible cut. Often hyped as an underrated or "forgotten" part of the beast. Don't believe a word of it - its either irredeemably greasy or tastes of boot leather.

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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yes i was going to mention jose's pork, i've had that and it is good, but did leave me wanting a nice charred spanish asador style steak!

eta: a very positive review from marina this morning in the metro too.

Edited by Gary Marshall (log)

you don't win friends with salad

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Marina's Metro review of Corner Room is positively glowing. Plus she touches on the "pluma".

The cut looked like pork fillet on our plate, however our waitress said it was pluma.

Next visit to the shmoke, best give Jose a look at.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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  • 3 years later...

Digging up an ancient thread. I went to the Corner Room and loved it. The food was delicate and interesting, unpretentious, with beautiful flavor combinations.

 

One of the highlights for me was a bream dish with a broth and “spaghetti” made from green apple (on the right in the first photo). The tart flavor of the apple was fantastic with the fish. 

 

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The other one was a cod dish where the cod had been shortly cured and then cooked at low temperature, something I want to try at home because the texture of the fish was esquisite. Cod skin crisps on the side.

 

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There was not a false note in the meal. I just wished I live closer so I could visit more often!

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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