Viajante is Nuno Mendes’s new restaurant. It is set in a rather interesting location, close to the Bethnal Green tube station. The room is beautiful, and fits the cooking perfectly. During my first lunch here, (no more than a week after opening!) service was great. It might not have been as polished as in some of the more established starred restaurants, but it was friendly, warm and brought us all we wanted. I don’t ask for more, especially if the food is as good as it was here today.
We drank a great 1999 Duval Leroy Blanc de blancs, which had good depth, and concentration. After that we moved to an Australian wine, composed of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It was a beautiful pairing for most of the food, and very fairly priced at £44 a bottle. The following wine was the best of the bunch, a 2006 St. Joseph from Vins de Vienne. This cooperative, made up of some of the finest winemakers of the northern Rhone, produces some great wines, and this was no exception.
First up were Crostini de romesco and gordal olives, almonds and Jerez. This didn’t only look beautiful, but it had great intensity of taste too. As careful as the presentation was, it was a beautiful combination too, where the olives gave just the punch they should, no more, no less. Very good.
The second amuse wasn’t bad neither: A smokey aubergine with soy milk. A crispy sandwich was served with a few jellified preparations of aubergine and soy milk. What I liked about this was the freshness, and the intense, deep flavour of the dish. This was another very enjoyable amuse. I was looking forward to the rest…
The final amuse was simply called Thai Explosion II. A bit of confit chicken was served between thin sheets of philo-pastry. It was tasty, well-seasoned and fresh. All I want in a restaurant, great stuff. Very good.
A word about the bread and butter. Both were stunning. The bread had an incredibly light, airy, fluffy texture, with a very thin, crunchy crust. It felt like eating very tasty air, or nearly, and was a highly accomplished piece of baking. The butter is made in a rather complicated process. First it is browned, then frozen, and whipped, to make it lighter. Sprinkled with violet potato powder, it was great to be eaten with the bread. Like a little bon-bon. Excellent.
Squid tartare and pickled radishes, samphire and frozen squid ink jus. This was another incredibly fresh, light dish, which might have been influenced by some Nordic chefs’ cooking. The squid, pine nuts and frozen ink jus combo was very enjoyable and worked beautifully. Excellent
Textures of beetroot and crab, green apple and whipped goats curd. I considered this to be the “weakest” dish of the day, although Laurent of GOT really enjoyed it. My problem was the beetroot, which slightly overpowered the delicate crab. The apple, goat’s cheese and crab combination was great though. Good.
Roasted Celeriac, tapioca and S. Jorge Cheese. Another picture on a plate, which really impressed me visually. Not many restaurants in London go into such detail in the plating, so this really was a great plate of food. The flavours and textures were just as good as the look, which made me count this as one of the best dishes of the day. Excellent.
Lemon Sole, brioche, yeast and cauliflower. Another very well thought out combination, this dish really showed off the product’s quality. Compared with another Lemon Sole dish, I’ve had at Inter Scaldes, this was much more interesting and better. This was another highlight, just like the next one was too… Excellent.
Up next was a Pigs Neck and prawns, Savoy cabbage and anchovies, fried capers and grated egg. This was an intriguing combination, which brought together quite a few diverse elements into a rather well-composed plate. The elements all worked very well, and the pork was quite exquisite. Beautifully braised for 24hrs, it was tender, tasty and simply delicious. The combination with the egg was very good, and the other elements, like the slightly grilled salad, gave it some crunch and herbal taste. Excellent.
A beef dish with Miso was added, as we still had some red wine left. This featured a great piece of tender, and tasty beef, very well cooked and beautifully presented with great garnishes. Simple, and very well executed, this was great modern food, which really adds something new to London’s restaurant scene. Excellent.
We moved on to the sweet part of the meal with a glass of Tocolato from Maculan. A Thai-Basil and lemon sorbet was a capable palate cleanser, which prepared us for the dessert. Very good.
The dessert itself was a Dark chocolate and hazelnuts, praline powder and blackcurrant gel. I didn’t expect a fondant au chocolat in such a modern restaurant, but this one was complemented by a whole bunch of complementing elements. Not only was it very good, but it also was incredibly beautiful and well done. Another very good plate of food.
The petit-fours and the coffee (from Square Mile) were just as good as the rest, and further solidified this restaurant’s serious commitment to count among the best in town.
Overall this was a great lunch. Just one week after opening, the kitchen seemed to work perfectly, and the lunch was of a very high standard. It’s hard to identify a favourite course, as most were great. The experience was rounded off by a nice, if short selection of wines, and great relaxed service. If you really like food, take the trip down to Bethnal Green, where you’ll be able to have some of the most interesting meals in London.