Bethnal Green is a funny place: studded with gems like Hurwundeki, the V&A Museum of Childhood and the lovely Gallery Cafe, but still rough enough for me to spot a man snorting coke off a bus stop in broad daylight (yes, really). Nestled amongst all of this is the Town Hall, a decidedly upmarket hotel and boutique apartment complex which also houses two restaurants from ex-El Bulli Portugese chef Nuno Mendes: the fine dining Viajante and its baby sister, the more informal Corner Room. Since it was mine and Josh’s five-year anniversary we popped there for dinner on Friday.
The small restaurant is beautifully done out with white subway tiles and vintage wood furnishings with stunning statement lighting. There are no reservations taken so we were prepared to wait for a table, but we got seated immediately at 7pm and the restaurant filled to a buzzy three-quarters full as we ate.
You know it’s a good sign when even the free bread and butter is mouthwatering: I think the bread must have been freshly baked and the butter tasted hand-churned and properly seasoned with lots of salt and pepper. The cheapest bottle of white wine – a French sauvignon at £28 – was absolutely delicious, and unlimited filtered water is offered for £1 a head.
There was only one vegetarian option for each course so my decision of what to order was easy. Starter was beetroot with goats’ curd, accompanied by crisp spring green leaves and a grassy-tasting green puree. It was beautifully presented and tasted cold, fresh and zingy, perfect for the summers’ night.
My main course was Jerusalem artichoke with enoki mushrooms and asparagus. I think it was my first time trying Jerusalem artichokes: they had been charred which left the skins tough but gave the insides an amazing smoky barbecued flavour. The sauce was a wonderful combination of silky mushroom with acidic lemon cutting through it. A really clever, exciting dish.
The portions, though flavour-packed, are small, so we had room for a dessert each. Rhubarb with buttermilk sorbet and mint was good, but the star was the stewed apple with frozen pannacotta, which contained surprise chunks of apple jelly and fudge – wonderful. They even make a good coffee – rare for any restaurant!
We both agreed it was one of the best, most interesting meals we’ve had lately. At around £50/head for 3 courses with wine it’s great value for high-end dining in a lovely informal setting with charming service. Brave Bethnal Green and visit it.