Saturday 20 August 2011

The Corner Room- A Hidden Gem

The Fashionista and I have had our eye on a trip to Viajante, Nuno Mendes' seminal restaurant in Bethnal Green, for quite a while now but a lack of money and distracting trips to other legendary restaurants (the Fashionista treated me to a trip to Fergus Henderson's St John's) has meant that we have just not managed to get round to it.  Scouring blogs for interesting new finds recently, however, we both came across Mendes' side project: The Corner Room.   I would provide a link but seeing as there is no website, no phone and they do not take reservations this place seems like it almost doesn't want to be found.  Tucked away in a corner of the first floor of the Town Hall Hotel it is quite hard to find but definitely worth the effort when you do.

The interior is stripped down industrial white tiles with a wall of lights at the back and large film set lights on the ceiling.  We sat down and were greeted with a complimentary bowl of mixed bread (sourdough and walnut) and large green olives stuffed with anhovies and olives- a great start.

The menu is a stripped down list of ingredients which hides the intricate nature of the dishes on offer- I started with the simply named squid, fennel and new potatoes- what arrived did contain all of those ingredients but also so much more- beautifully cooked tender squid, wonderfully subtle aniseed from the fennel, samphire and seaweed all served on top of blacker than black squid ink.

The Fashionista started with the equally simply named crab with pickled apple and cucumber.  At first taste this appeared to have been a bad choice when compared with the robust flavours in the squid dish.  Mouthful by mouthful, however, a broad smile spread across the Fashionista's face as the subtle flavours in this dish started to work their magic.  Sweet crab, tart apples and cucumber and a subtle heat which may have been from either chili or something horseradish like, I just couldn't put my finger on it.

On to the mains: I went for the Iberico pork with Portuguese bread pudding and baby carrots.  The tastes were uncomplicated and married beatifully together.  Tasty tasty pork fillet cooked simply with some rock salt and served pink (I know pork is not normally meant to be but this really worked) with sweet red pepper mixed with breadcrumbs and fried in butter- street foodesque, hearty and full of flavour.

The Fashionista went for the duck confit with girolles mushrooms- like the crab what arrived had much more to it than was suggested on the menu- duck confit, girolles mushrooms, a poached egg, radish, blackberries and grapes.  Everything was cooked perfectly but as a dish this just didn't come together and it seemed a little confused.
Now we come to dessert- normally when we are out for dinner I get my way and we share a cheese board (although in my defence, the Fashionista is hardly averse to a bit of cheese).  At the Corner Room, however, such was the interesting nature of the desserts on offer (pineapple with smoked pastry anyone?) that the Fashionista persuaded me to share a dessert with her- goat's cheese (I still got my cheese fix) with blueberries, toffee and "shesaw" granita (at least this is the phonetic of what we were told the granita was- apparently it is a Japanese spice but I couldn't seem to find it anywhere on the net- leave a comment if you know more).  This was the best dessert I have ever had.  It blew the desserts at Osteria Francescana (no mean feat given that restaurant was voted fourth best in the world in 2011) out of the water- savoury, sweet, refreshing- brilliant.

The food at the Corner Room is some of the best around and when you combine that with prices that vary from 6-8 for a starter, 10-14 for a main and a fiver for dessert you know that you are on to an absolute winner- this place is only five minutes from where I live and I can really see myself being there at least once a month from now on.  The only thing I would say is that is that the wine list is a little on the expensive side and service is automatically added at 12.5% (a pet hate of mine) but, given the quality of what's on offer, the Corner Room can be more than forgiven for this.

P.S. There is a limit of 90 minutes on the table which was enforced as there was a queue of people out the door when we left- fair enough as the more people who get to try this food the better but definitely something to be aware of.

P.P.S. Sorry the photos aren't great on this one, left my camera at home so was reliant on the power of the i phone which really doesn't do the food justice. 

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