Viajante

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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.

Bread course

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

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.

Cod tripe

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.

Pork loin

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.

Petit fours
A meal at Viajante is haute cuisine.  Some of it delighted but some of it also disappointed.  The problem was interesting ideas which just did not deliver in terms of taste.  At just under £200 for our meal for two  I expected more consistency.   

Essentials
Details: Vıajante, Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, E2 9NF (Ph: 020 7871 0461) Tube: Bethnal Green.
Damages: Budget Breaking.
6/10

Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of more haute cuisine at The Fat Duck or Mendes’ more affordable (and better) restaurant, The Corner Room.Viajante on Urbanspoon

10 comments

  1. Oh what a shame, you had more misses than hits, I think. We had a miss or two as well, although sometimes just a dish that mostly worked but with a component that didn’t make sense, such as a strong cheese on a delicate fish dish. Overall, we enjoyed our meal, despite the two dishes that were definite misses for us, but menu has changed quite a bit since our January visit. 🙁

  2. What a shame to have such a disappointment, and on your birthday! I’d wanted to visit Viajante for ages, and had almost managed to bully my dad into taking the family (!) when he sent me an awful review that flagged the inconsistencies and hugely inflated prices. It seems that peoples’ love affair with this restaurant is slowly waning.
    Apparently The Corner Room, Mendes’ other restaurant in the building, is really good though. Might have to pay it a visit before Viajante…

  3. That is a real shame, there do seem to be such varying reviews of Viajante – but then with experimental food, not all the experiments work. But it’s not good when it happens to you.

  4. Happy birthday. Shame about the meal. On the plus side, the red wine sounds intriguing. My friend swears by Austrian wine, and I may just have to track down this red too!

  5. Shame you didn’t have a great birthday meal! Birthdays are most important! Even looking at the photos (before reading the text) I thought the pork loin looked the best 🙂

  6. What a shame. It’s so disappointing when restaurants that are supposed to be great let you down on important occasions. The mackerel looks (and sounds) slimy but the crockery looks amazing!
    Onwards and upwards, eh? Here’s hoping the next meal is better.

  7. Really interesting review! I have been dying to try Viajante for ages, but haven’t managed to persuade the husband. Maybe I won’t bother now?! Hope you still managed to enjoy your birthday even if the meal wasn’t as good as expected!

  8. Still looks pretty stunning- presentation has to count for something. Keep up the good hunt

  9. Hmm I think inconsistent sums it up… some of those dishes look terrible. Pork loin looks good but I don’t think the experience is worth £200. This is relatively close to home to me but the second they got the michelin star I struck it off my affordable list!

  10. Kavey – recent reviews seem more negative. It is a shame as I really wanted and expected to love it.

    The Little Loaf – Yes the Corner Room is excellent and much cheaper as well.

    Rachel – That is true -sadly we fell foul of the experiment.

    Mr Noodles – the wine was excellent – I think Austrian wine is having a bit of a renaissance.

    Catty – You can tell a lot from photos….

    Sharon – I agree the crockery was just beautiful – so tempted to spirit it away in my handbag!

    Sam – Yes I did but the meal did put a bit of a dampner on things.

    Anon – Yes there was beautiful crockery and some of the dishes were just brilliantly presented.

    Sarah – Yes it was a real contrast between stunning presentation and then just looking quite inedible.

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