The name, while being Portuguese, has no bearing on where the delightful cuisine hails from. True, the chef, Nuno Mendes, is originally Portuguese, but the restaurant’s name should be used as a rough guide to the food on offer. Without a menu or any indication of what you will receive until your waiter lays it in front of you, a meal at Viajante really is like being a traveller on a voyage of culinary discovery.

I enjoyed the 6 course meal at Viajante a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been putting off writing this blog post in the hopes that the restaurant would send me the menu we ate, as promised, but alas, that is not to be.

The restaurant is in an unlikely location. Bethnal Green, as you may know, is not famed for haute cuisine. But this doesn’t seem to have stopped Mendes setting up shop in the old town hall. Although the surroundings leave a little to be desired, the premises themselves are cosy and inviting – a spot of wood panelling never goes amiss.

The menu (or lack thereof) was exciting to say the least. We went for the 6 course option, but in actual fact this turned out to be 6 ‘courses’ and 4 sides. To avoid spoiling the surprise, I won’t go into great detail about what we were served. The main things I noticed and that I think are worth highlighting is the use of traditional ingredients in novel ways and the recurrent theme of various purées holding the dish together. On the first point, I would like to mention the chocolate truffles that incorporated mushrooms to enhance the flavour. Truffles aren’t exactly the most exciting thig for someone who has been eating chocolate for 21 years, but incorporating mushroom into the mix was an excellent idea. The taste of the mushroom was nutty, a little salty and slightly sour – a perfect counterpoint to the creamy delicacy of the chocolate truffle. In terms of the purées, they prove that if you add enough butter and cream to something they will taste delicious. However, I am not criticising them at all. I loved every single purée I came across, from the more well-known butternut squash purée to the innovative use of kelp. Not only did the taste help to hold together the other ingredients used, but the bright colours made the overall presentation very impressive.

So far I’ve given a glowing report of Viajante, but it did have its bad points. Firstly, there was one dish on which I wasn’t terribly keen. A vaguely asian take on tuna accompanied with very bitter salad leaves and slightly undercooked vegetables came slap-bang in the middle of the meal. Even though I had been enjoying the courses up to that point and thereafter, the tuna dish unfortunately had the effect of dampening my spirits. Secondly, even though we’d ordered the 6 course sampler, there was no indication of what course was being presented to us. For example, what we believed to be the 8th course was actually ‘pre-dessert’. This did cause quite a lot of consternation.

Overall, Viajante is an excellent restaurant, particularly for those with little experience of fine modern cuisine. For around £68 it is possible to eat a substantial amount of very good food. However, if you have high expectations you could be disappointed by what is on offer.

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