A restaurant with no menu where the chefs finish dishes with tweezers and the ingredients are weird and wonderful? Viajante was exactly where I wanted to celebrate my birthday. The restaurant had been on my wish list for a while after amazing meals at Nuno Mendes’ other restaurants, the Loft Project and Corner Room, so clocking over another year was the perfect excuse for a visit.
|Thai chicken explosion and duck ham|
Unfortunately my meal at Viajante was a very mixed experience and in no way achieved the giddy heights of my previous meals cooked by Mendes. I was ridiculously excited as we sat down in the modern, airy room filled with designer Ercol furniture. We had a front row view of the open kitchen where Mendes and his team of chefs beavered away with tweezers. There was no deliberation over the menu as there is no menu. You just choose whether you want a six course tasting menu or twelve course tasting menu. We opted for the six course and I actually question how people physically fit the twelve course menu in given once you added in the amuse bouches, palate cleansers and other “freebie” dishes we had 13 courses in total.
|Cheese with peas and flowers|
All we had to decide on was the wine so we started with a glass of champagne before moving onto a light and peppery Austrian red wine, Uwe Schiefer Blaufrankisch Eisenberg 2007. This was recommended by the excellent sommelier and I enjoyed it so much I am going to try and track down a case of it.
Our first amuse bouches arrived which were “Thai explosion”a mini sandwich of soft, sweet chicken, lemongrass and coriander. On the same piece of slate was duck ham which was like prosciutto but with the stronger flavour and drier texture of duck. Both were tasty but not quite the Mendes magic I was expecting.
|Fresh almonds with crab|
Next up was a beautiful spring like looking dish of cheese with pea and flowers. Unfortunately the dish did not work. The cheese had an almost sour taste and a runny, unappealing texture which the flowers could not distract from. Proving that the crockery at Viajante is just as spectacular looking as the food our next course of fresh almonds with crab arrived on a huge round stone which was actually the plate. There were just a few scatterings of almonds with a sauce of almond milk and some flecks of crab. All the components of the dish really tasted the same and the dish was too similar in texture to what we had just had.
There was some respite with the bread course at Viajante which was excellent with crusty baguettes and an addictive chorizo brioche and flavoured butter.
Mackerel with lemon and sorrel tasted almost as bad as it looked. The raw mackerel took on a slimy texture coated in a green pond like substance. While not offensive, milk yuba with peas and parmesan was merely a milky foam with limited flavour and interest. Yuba was the first but certainly not the last ingredient to have me rushing to google once I got home. Mendes uses a variety of different and sometimes baffling ingredients and it was only with the benefit of hindsight that I knew exactly what I had eaten. In the same way I discovered that the royal kombu on the confit loin in the next course was actually seaweed.
|Acorda de camarao|
The first dish which made me exclaim “Ooh” out loud was the acorda de camarao which was Mendes’ take on a traditional Portuguese bread soup with prawns. The dish was topped with a soft poached egg yolk which when broken formed a thick, rich sauce.
I also loved the rich flavour and thick, dense texture of the cod tripe which was sprinkled with shards of fried onion and crispy potato.
The dish of the night was the pink and succulent Maldonado pork loin which was teamed with clams and crisp, crunchy pieces of cereals.
|Frozen marzipan with celery and lime|
After the excellent main courses the meal fell down again at dessert. The taste of the pre dessert of frozen marzipan with celery and lime was very muted and almost too subtle.
|Strawberries with pine and thyme sponge|
The main dessert was reminiscent of a deconstructed Eton mess with strawberries and foam substituted for cream and the meringues for some soft, fluffy pieces of pine and thyme sponge. More sauce would have bound all the different elements together. However, I could not fault the petit fours of delicious death by chocolate style truffles and squares of soft Turkish delight.
Details: Vıajante, Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, E2 9NF (Ph: 020 7871 0461) Tube: Bethnal Green.
Damages: Budget Breaking.