This is one of those restaurant that I have been rather excited about. I have long heard of the wonderful culinary skills of the famous Portuguese chef, Nuno Mendes and equally good things about this latest venture of his. The concept is simple, brilliantly cooked food, at an affordable price set in a neighbourhood friendly environment. All these combination sounds wonderful on paper, but is it possible to create plates and plates of visually stunning and imaginatively creative food at a lower cost without sacrificing the taste?
So for my birthday, M and I decided to finally pay this venue a visit. Corner Room is a strikingly modern and stylish restaurant situated in the Town Hall Hotel where the old Bethnal Green Town Hall used to be. It made a pretty impressive first impression upon arriving. Startling white tiled walls and contemparary pine wood floorboards; vast amount of natural lights coming through the grand windows and the strategically placed mirror added to the grand illusion of this cosy dining room. Immaculately presented table settings as well as the quirky pendant lights decor which formed the main focal point of the room, along with other quaint little details such as the giant expendable ceiling lamp, cast iron spiral staircase that lead to nowhere and the bric-a-brac odd bits of antique crockery in the display shelves. All these further added to the freshness and youthful aesthetic of the restaurant.
The menu followed the simple styling of the decor, with only a small handful of options for the starters and mains and the description for each too were minimalist. Only the ingredients were listed as the name and nothing was given away as to how each dish will be cooked or prepared. Although I find this both intriguing and exciting as the element of surprise fascinate me but at the same time I couldn't help feeling that they are not really selling their dishes well. One fine example was 'beetroot with goat curds and black mustard. Is it roasted, pan fried or a salad?
However, being an adventurous diner, I have not qualms ordering food purely on the ingredients and most of the ingredients sound pretty straight forward anyway.
'Crab with seaweed and baby jersey royals' (£9) arrived looking like a tiny solitary island on a giant white plate. The crab were sweet, fresh and packed full of flavours. The crunchy wakame seaweed, salty samphires and crumbly jersey royals provided a contrast in textures and the accompanying green pea purée made this a sensational starter.
'Pigs head with dandelion and parsley' (£8) were just that except without the decapitated swine's crown, not a single snout was in sight. What appeared before me were light and crispy fried skin puffs, meltingly tender pork cheeks served alongside with crunchy hazelnuts and bitter dandelion, all coated with a grassy green and peppery olive oil dressing.
Both mains arrived looking pretty as a picture. The artistic creativity of the chef were at it's finest. Perfectly seared ruby red Onglet steak (£14), with perfumed celeriac purée and bright green tarragon sauce were beautifully balanced. The rump of lamb (£14) too were cooked to perfection, with just enough pinkness for it to be tender to the bite. The accompanying 'cereal' were in fact pearl barley, poppy seeds and chopped pistachio nuts combined with an intensely aromatic puréed wild garlic. It was a true revelation, I have never known a side-kick that outshone the main, especially when the main was this good! There were crunchiness, softness and nuttiness, my taste buds were forced into overdrive with every mouthful of the inventive dish.
The puddings that followed were also superb. 'Leche frita with brioche and sultanas' (£5) were crispy coated and once cut into with a spoon, revealed creamy white and firm buttermilk, simply delicious. As were the zesty mango sauce that surrounded it. But in my opinion, although M would disagree, that the poached and caramelised apple with frozen pannacota (£5) were by the far, the best pudding of the two. Hidden amongst the frozen cream were the surprised fudge and apple jelly, topped with some candied apple slices and finish off with apple purée - apple 4 ways if you like. Truly scrumptious.
Before I entered the Corner Room, expectations were high and I have to say, there were more than satisfied. The food were beautifully presented, mindfully prepared and executed and the flavour of the ingredient shone through every dishes. So this is what good food looks like and best of all, comes with a reasonable price tag. I won't be waiting for my next birthday to come back again.
For lunch, they do an offer of 2 courses for £17 and 3 courses for £21. On this occasion, we had to pay for £3 supplement for the crab dish which were clearly stated on the menu which the waitress consideredly reminded us when we placed our orders. There were also a £1 bread and water charges each and the wine selections weren't cheap. Although the cheapest was around £30 and the price of the meal more than even it out.
Town Hall Hotel & Apartments
London E2 9NF