Venison and raw mushrooms with smoked yoghurtMore pictures
Viajante was a restaurant I first heard about back in September after Hardens awarded it London’s best new restaurant. Always one to sit back, and equally being put off by the reported 2 month waiting list for a table I set it as the venue for my 2010 Christmas meal and through the magic of the internets got a in with relative ease with a few weeks notice to prepare for their 12 course tasting menu (there was also the choice of a 6 or 9 but really that would have felt like a let down).
Viajante is Portuguese for traveller and from existing online reviews I was prepared for a culinary journey through the sea and fields, as well as around the mean streets of Bethnal Green while we tried to find the place. What I actually got was a journey through the expected sea and fields but also through hedge rows, farm yards and the sea shore with a huge array of ingredients, preparations and tastes bombarding my mouth with each course.
For me some of the most exciting dishes were those that incorporated raw ingredients. Silky raw scallops were first up and combined with sweet raw butternut squash and mustard, raw parsnips were curled and presented with shavings of truffle and along with lovely pink venison where delicately prepared and presented with raw oyster and chanterelle mushrooms and uncooked blackberries. This ensured that the real taste of these delicious ingredients shone through and while I’m generally a fan of a rich sauce bringing everything together for once I didn’t miss them and to be fair there were enough sauces in other courses to keep me going!
Less experimental but equally amazing where langoustine cooked with rosemary and lardo presented draped over a warm stone, Iberico ham crusted sea bass with a garlic kale sauce and squab pigeon with raw beetroot and a beetroot sauce (I was very happy to have beetroot on the menu). I think this is what I enjoyed most, the fact that there was such variety of dishes, you never know what would be coming next and this anticipation just kept increasing after each of the courses; especially after one of the really good ones.
Not everything was a hit and the experimentation may have gone a little bit too far with the milk skin on-top of charred leaks (there is a reason I normally through them away) and the addition of a confit egg yolk with lobster while good on their own didn’t combine too well as a dish. In all these while being worse than those before them were certainly not ‘bad dishes’ though. To top everything off were three puddings which other than the inclusion of dill (probably my most hated of all herbs) were all sweet delights; my favourite of which was the sea buckthorn and burnt meringue (which was crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle while being just millimeters thick).
As you may have guessed by now I would strongly recommend a visit to Viajante though please do make sure that you’ve given yourself enough time to avoid rushing through things. While not the most romantic of settings or the best place for a quiet evening due to the open kitchen and rather broad dining room if you love food that will test your taste-buds, imagination and have you wondering what might be on the menu the day after (I believe the menu changes daily) then this is a place to put on your list of places to go in 2011. Check out @viajante for last openings, you may even be lucky enough to get in by Christmas.Tweet