Despite any real tourist appeal, Bethnal Green is well worth a visit for anyone after an extraordinary culinary experience. The reason being, chef Nuno Mendes has stamped it on the culinary map with his highly innovative cuisine at Viajante, in the majestic Town Hall Hotel. The woody furniture is quite basic but elegant and there are no table clothes, but the waiting staff certainly know how to fill the void of formality. Once seated in the open-plan kitchen-dining room, you’ll have plenty of time to watch-over the show that they and the kitchen staff put-on for you.
Don’t expect a menu. The entire idea is led by the chef through six, nine or 12 courses. Once you’ve decided upon a number, the parade of exotic dishes begins. With the first mise-en-bouche, the combination of the crunchy coconut biscuit and the spicy chicken mix, with a soft-boiled quail egg is a great start. The spicy taste is then washed away by crushed sweet popcorn on a sorrel relish. For sure, after such an innovative beginning, you won’t know what to expect next.
Now that you’re prepared for your diner, the bread and two butter mousses are brought-out, one with caramelised crushed nuts and the other with tiny pieces of grilled bacon; their lightness is unbelievable. Then comes a raw scallop served with frozen samphire. It looks quite basic but it really shows-off the quality and the flavour of the shellfish. The sea bass which follows is the same, served with a light broth, infused with vanilla to create an intense taste.
The same high culinary standards are applied to the meat dishes. First is the Iberico pork, served with an unusual fermented squash. Because of the smell, this one is certainly the most challenging courses for your palate. Though, if that’s too far from your comfort zone, be reassured that the pigeon which comes next will be easier to enjoy. To finish the experience, desserts and petits fours cap things off nicely.
Viajante, certainly meets all expectations, but it certainly may push some diners. If you are an adventurous individual, this is definitely the place for you!