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May 29, 2011 03:56 AM

The Corner Room [London]

The Corner Room has only been open a two weeks and is a secretive little place which has been opened by Viajante chef Nuno Mendes.
It is in the same Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green as Viajante but is in a more rustic room on the first floor where the hotel serves breakfast.
There are maybe 8-10 tables and no bookings - turn up and give your name then head to the Viajante cocktail bar for in our case about 40 minutes.

The food comes from the same school as Viajante, which is my favourite restaurant in London. There is however a menu to choose from rather than everything coming unseen. Four starters, four mains, three desserts.
Walnut bread was excellent as was an amuse bouche of an absolutely massive green olive stuffed with anchovies and orange.
We tried three of the starters, which all have very minimal descriptions.
Squid, Jersey Royals and Fennel was the pick of the bunch. The menu didn't mention it was on a base of squid ink and included samphire. Perfectly cooked squid and aesthetically an absolutely beautiful dish.
Asparagus, egg and tapioca was interesting although lacked a little seasoning while Poached Artichoke, San Jorge and Rocket suffered in a similar way with the lovely little pieces of jamon massively outnumbered by the artichokes.

Mains were both stellar, Seabass with watercress and Lamb with cereals were extremely clever and I'm loathe to spoil the surprise of them but the feta that came with the lamb was probably the best I've ever tasted.

We tried all three desserts, Dark Chocolate with Peanut Butter ice cream was rich and decadent. Vanilla parsnip ice cream is a Viajante dish with a twist. Then goat's cheese with caramel was also very tasty although was overshadowed a bit by the depth of flavour of the other two desserts.

Good value wine list which is short and totally organic. Although curiously it was £5 cheaper to buy 6 x 125ml glasses than a whole bottle!

But the incredible thing about thing place is the value. Starters are £6, mains are £10-12 and desserts are £4. I wonder if they will stay that cheap if it makes a success of itself but for the moment I cannot recommend it highly enough and cost about the same as three courses at Pizza Express. If you liked Viajante this will be a great reminder and considerably easier on the wallet. If you haven't gone for slight nervousness then The Corner Room is the perfect way into Mendes's cooking. Even the dishes that were slightly underwhelming only need fine touching to be excellent and I'm sure that will occur as the kitchen gets more experienced.

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  1. That sounds incredibly good value! May I ask what day of the week you went and what time it was? Was hoping to pop in before word gets around too quickly...but 40 minutes is a ridiculously long wait already.

    1 Reply
    1. re: astereilla

      We arrived at about 7.15 on Friday night so pretty peak time. We knew about the wait and were happy to have a drink in the bar. I'm sure that on a weekday it would be less busy and if you can get there for 630ish you'd probably be the first ones through the door and get seated straight away.

      The pork and bread pudding was off last night so I am incredibly envious of Emus as that was the dish I wanted.

    2. I went earlier this week at about 7 and not only was there no wait, there was actually no-one else in the restaurant. I passed Nuno Mendes on the way and asked for directions (if you come in through the Viajante entrance it's almost purposely impossible to find) and he looked pleased and slightly relieved that anyone knew about it. So maybe week days would be a much better time to go?

      Anyway, I agree with everything that's been said. For the quality of the cooking and especially the TYPE of cooking, the price is ludicrously cheap. The squid was definitely the pick of the starters and I had a pork dish for mains where the meat was almost marshmellow-ey in texture and the Portuguese bread pudding it came with -at the risk of damning with faint praise- were the best croutons I've ever eaten. Great lavender ice-cream in the desserts too.

      4 Replies
      1. re: emusinthezone

        We had dinner here on Friday night, and it was excellent. We have eaten at Viajante in the past but found it to be inconsistent - some dishes were great, some just downright awful.
        I arrived at 6.30pm and enquired if it was busy yet, the very friendly front of house said not quite yet, but don't mess about as there will soon be queues out the door. I had to wait for my boyfriend so sat in the bar and had a cocktail. It's a lovely space but the staff should perhaps be a little more discreet around chatting how annoyed they are and want a new job!

        We then went up to the Corner Room (that hotel is just beautiful - you don't see much of it when you visit Viajante but the building is just stunning) around 7pm and there were only a few other tables. I had sea bass ceviche for my starter, which was fresh, clean flavours and not too overpowering of the delicacy of the fish. My boyfriend had crab which was also very good.

        For mains I had rump of lamb which was just so perfectly cooked it just melted in my mouth, and my boyfriend had the pork and Portuguese bread pudding. The pork arrived looking very rare (it was dark and looked more like venison) but was so tender and tasty.

        Desserts I had blueberries and goats cheese which was good but could have done with a little more of the salty cheese. Boyfriend had the deconstructured Snickers bar which was apparently good - I couldn't try as I am allergic to peanuts.

        Service was friendly and helpful. We did notice though that since reading a few other reviews, the prices have gone up ever so slightly, mains were now around £13 - £16 but it is still very good value for the quality of the cooking. The menu is limited, but this is not a concern, we would definitely go back with the knowledge the menu can change pretty much daily. Perhaps the only negative is the price of the wine, but then when the food is such good value you let this go. Also love the fact you can't book so a review or two won't mean we can't get a table for a while.

        1. re: pj26

          I echo what's said above - tremendous food for a tremendous price. We paid about £40/head for three courses and a decent amount of wine. I actually thought the wine list was pretty good value with the house red being very tasty.

          I've never seen pork quite that rare but as noted it is incredibly tender.

          The bar is almost more worth of comment: their 'blazer' cocktail is a sight to behold and the one with an old leather book was also sensational. Service there left something to be desired though - we waited 20 mins for a table but were left standing at the bar trying to order (and failing), and after finishing dinner our cocktails took about 30 minutes to turn up. Given how drunk I ended up though that is perhaps no bad thing!

          1. re: Tripowski

            Is this the bar at Viajante? Or is there another one in the hotel?

            That pork dish is amazing isn't it? Interestingly two of the best dishes I've had this year have been very rare pork - the Corner Room dish and the Pluma Iberica at Jose. I know it's risky if the meat is poor but it makes you wonder why you don't see it done more often.

            1. re: emusinthezone

              Eyre Brothers made an excellent version of an Iberican pork as well. Haven't been in a long time though...

      2. I was just there on Wednesday evening, arrived at 7:30pm and had to wait over an hour for a table (ranks right up there with the wait for a table at Anchor & Hope!). But the food was definitely worth it. We were a group of 5, so we pretty much managed to order the entire menu. My favourite was the mozzarella, strawberry and tomato salad - such a great combination of summery flavours (although it was pouring rain outside).

        I feel like the starters had more flair than the mains, which were more simplistic and rustic (especially the turbot with pancetta and artichoke dish that I had). The technical bits were all done right though, which is always good! My dad's salmon confit had the silkiest texture, amazing.

        I just wish the restaurant could accommodate more diners!

        6 Replies
        1. re: astereilla

          Have eaten twice here now, and loved it both times. On the second visit, of particular note was the starter of sliced chorizo - sounds boring, but this was really some of the best chorizo I have ever eaten. I've been thinking about it ever since! The cured cod with olives and the pork and bread pudding were also both fantastic. I can't wait to go back again.

          1. re: Sharmila

            Am thinking of going tomorrow but a little concerned about the wait - I guess if I get there for 7.30pm then we (there will be 2 of us) should be seated by about 8.30pm? I generally like to book tables for 9pm but don't want to risk turning up at about 8.30pm and being made to wait till around 10!

            1. re: Adam_In_London

              We managed to get a table for 5 within about 20-25 minutes last Thursday evening - first person turned up to request the table at 7:15. It wasn't super-busy, just nicely full. You could get a seat in the bar too if you wanted.

              1. re: Tripowski

                How lucky! I guess it didn't help that it was pouring outside - perhaps no one wanted to leave.

                I forgot to mention, none of us are big drinkers and the bar was quite full, so we just sat just inside of the reception with the chess table and the dentist's chair. It wasn't too bad for a one hour wait to be honest - the porters (? not sure what you call them) came by twice offering us chocolate truffles with a caramel filling! They were delightful!

              2. re: Adam_In_London

                Even when we went on a Friday, by the time we left, around 8.15pm there were some empty tables and no queue.
                Do be aware though if you are at the earlier service, there is a strict table turning policy (I think it was 1.5 or maybe 2 hours) but this posed no problem for us.

                1. re: pj26

                  I went last night, 2 of us got there for 8 and had an hour wait, which we spent in the cocktail bar. I was ok with an hour as I was expecting it, but any longer and I might have got tetchy, A larger party of four people seemed to have a wait of over 90 minutes.

                  Great food anyway, the pork and bread pudding is delicious