You’d be mistaken for thinking you’d come to the wrong address as you journey to the fine-dining establishment – Viajante. Inconspicuously nestled in amongst it’s fried-chicken outlet neighbours, the old Town Hall building doesn’t immediately offer suggestion as to its well-heeled inhabitants. When I say ‘well-heeled’ mind you I mean more United Nude heels than Louboutin heels as this is well and truly the home of the Shoreditch set.
Entering the restaurant’s lobby area we were greeted warmly and professionally by the host, and catching a glimpse of the interior through the part-glass doors I suddenly felt like I should perhaps have given a bit more consideration to what I was wearing as the interior of Viajante is impeccably stylish.
The restaurant only seats a maximum of 40 covers, which means they’re able to provide a decent standard of attentive service all housed within a calm and cosy environment. Speaking of environment, ol’ Bruno over at Zetter could learn a thing or two from his erstwhile colleague, Nuno Mendes, at Viajante.
We visited Viajante also on a Sunday, and whilst Bruno deems it appropriate to assault your senses with loud phones ringing out across the restaurant, at Viajante your ears are delicately kissed with soft, almost inaudible, jazz music that has birdsong dancing through it. Bliss. Just what you want on a Sunday.
The soundtrack perfectly matched the stylish surroundings. Have no fear though, Viajante is not one of those places that compromises comfort over style, for as we were shown to our table, located right next to the obsessively clean and neat pass, I delighted in finding the chairs were comfy, upholstered seats and not some awkwardly trendy and highly uncomfortable piece of acrylic ‘sculpture’.
We opted for the 6 course taster menu, with beverage pairing. I highly recommend the beverage pairing option. At £40 extra per person, it doesn’t seem cheap, however you do get to try some pretty fabulous wines and they’re not stingey with their measures. I’ve listed the accompanying wines we had below, with each course, in the photo’s caption description.
Since our visit I’ve read several reviews of Viajante and it would seem that one of the things Nuno Mendes is well-skilled at is dividing opinion. Viajante is the Marmite of restaurants – you either love it, or you hate it. I’m a lover, I must admit. Ok, so it’s difficult to ascertain a ‘signature’ within the widely varied dish styles you’re presented with, and I can appreciate how that may make some people uncomfortable, however for me it adds to the thrill of the experience. Viajante keep each course a secret. You don’t get told what you’re having until it’s put down in front of you (after you’ve received your specially selected wine of course). Being someone who loves surprises, this works perfectly for me, and after you’ve tasted the first course you settle in and feel comfortable in the knowledge that Nuno’s team can deliver the goods.
I would also recommend that you reserve a table by the pass if you go. I spent a lot of our visit mesmerized just watching the chefs prepare the dishes for serving. As you don’t know what you’re getting each time, it adds to the excitement to watch these master craftsmen delicately, and so precisely, preparing your dish for you. It’s like watching an artisan watch-maker; you’re blown away by the precision, care and attention that they put into their work. There’s a undeniable passion flowing through Viajante as well. It’s abundantly obvious that these guys all love what they do and are far from there just to act like performing seals for your amusement.
Now, on to the food…
After an amuse-bouche of ‘Thai explosion’, which was delicious, we were presented with…
As you can see, the presentation is exquisite, and I can assure you that it’s not ‘all in the presentation’ at Viajante either. Highlights for me were the sea bass toast which was sublime with the S Jorge cheese and a piece of cured ham atop – delicious! Parsnips, although usually igniting an immediate, overwhelming, gag-reflex in me at the mere mention of them, work remarkably well in a dessert when poached in vanilla. Also the cep mushroom truffle in the petit fours – my gosh! – what a surprise, what a joy! Both D and I, with some trepidation, bit into the gooey truffle and initially curled our noses up before huge, wide grins spread across our faces and we shoved the rest into our mouths as quickly as we could. Mushroom truffles could now well be my new favourite thing.
Needless to say I’m a fan and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Viajante, especially if you’re the sort of diner who’s happy to be taken off-piste now and then.
Viva la Viajante! I can’t wait to go back and get stuck into the 12 course taster menu.