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‘Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily,’ said Epicurus. And were he still around, no doubt you’d spot the white blur of the ancient Greek philosopher’s toga and beard as he hotfooted it over to Town Hall Hotel & Apartments in Bethnal Green next Tuesday night.
Multi-course indulgences from Viajante’s world-acclaimed Portuguese chef have been wowing the epicurious at this East End design hotel since Viajante opened there last Spring. And gastronomy doesn’t get more epic – or mouth-watering – than Nuno Mendes’ adventurous tasting menus (no wonder the restaurant received its first Michelin star last week). Razor clams with smokey yoghurt and dashi… pea and fresh herb-paste crostini and buttered hazelnuts… Shame on us for not telling you about the incredible supper we had there recently. Who knew milk, bananas and tomatoes could feature as such exotic flavours? (And look so sexy in their presentation?)
If Mendes’ avant-garde and ingenius concoctions aren’t enough food for thought, perhaps the light dinner conversation of ethics and religion at Alain de Botton’s School of Life-hosted event will leave you sated. And don’t worry if you don’t manage to snap up one of the limited £150 tickets for the six-course supper. Just make sure you sign up for Viajante’s 12-course tasting menu (with wines matched to each dish) soon – you won’t ever want it to end.
It’s not just his culinary creations that break the mould – Nuno Mendes’ demeanour is a a world away from your old-school, headline-grabbing egomaniacs. For a kitchen genius who is an alumnus of El Bulli (the Spanish restaurant that’s won more best-restaurant-in-the-world-type awards than Michael Winners has had hot dinners) and Bacchus, and as host of those legendary Loft Project supper parties, you’ll find him refreshingly demure.
On show in Viajante’s open kitchen, Mendes alchemises incongruous ingredients, both banal and a bit bonkers, with elegant results sure to wow snooty foodies and restaurant tourists alike. And if you’re lucky, the softly-spoken sir himself will talk you through the latest plate of magic to be put before you. ‘And yes Mrs Smith, that really is milk skin with your charred leeks, cured lobster, and hazelnuts.’
If you don’t bag a booking in Viajante itself, decamp to Town Hall’s bar for some tasty morsels of slow-cooked squid or rabbit mousse and a round of inventive cocktails – VV’s Margarita, Mr Smith? Mescal, lime, agave, Cointreau – mwah!
(Just don’t let the Feast With Epicurus folks in the de Montfort Suite know that, deep down, all you’re really pondering is who will win this season’s Dancing on Ice.)