Backed by none other than Jason Atherton, Typing Room is the new restaurant which replaces Viajante in the Bethnal Green Town Hall. I was really sad to hear Nuno Mendes (now of Chiltern Firehouse fame) was closing Viajante as it was such a unique and exciting restaurant. Intrigued as ever by a new opening, we popped down for lunch to see what head chef Lee Wescott had done with the new place.
The layout and design was very much the same as before; there were still two small dining rooms and still an open plan kitchen. It had a pleasant atmosphere, however we were seated at a table next to the service area meaning we could awkwardly hear the manager telling off the staff which wasn’t great.
At lunch, both the a la carte and tasting menu were available. We opted for the latter which was 6 courses for £55. Some pleasant bread started proceedings; a mini rosemary loaf and a really delicious black olive roll served alongside some chicken skin and puffed barley butter.
To start, we each had to choose from four ‘snacks’. We opted to share the ‘crispy fish skin, smoked cod, oyster and dill’ and the ‘chicken wing drumstick, wild garlic, potato and lemon’. The fish skin certainly looked very pretty but the texture had a touch of cardboard about it – it didn’t taste particularly fresh. The breadcrumbed chicken wing should have been served alongside a first aid kit, as it squirted out a molten butter lava once bitten into which was quite a shock.
Our first actual course was ‘mackerel, passion fruit, burnt cucumber and radish’. The dish was covered with some undressed salad leaves which was a shame as they covered the pretty mackerel and provided very little flavour. The passion fruit was a peculiar pairing for the mackerel – one which worked surprisingly well but it was rather dominant – we couldn’t taste much else. The mini burnt cucumber balls (which would shoot off the plate when I tried to pick them up) tasted simply of cucumber.
‘Yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers and mint’ was next which was a tastier dish yet it still didn’t wow or excite us. I couldn’t detect any raisins or capers, just large overly sweet grapes (I think they were grapes?) which were a bit sickly and overbearing in flavour.
The ‘scorched langoustine, carrot, pistachio and coriander’ was a really weird one – it was so sweet, I mean REALLY sweet. The main culprit here was pieces of sponge, which made the whole thing feel like a carrot cake. Match that with baked and puréed carrots along with already sweet langoustine – and you’ve got yourself a weirdly fishy pudding. It was a beautifully presented plate of food though.
For the main course there were two options which was a nice touch. I opted for the ‘pigeon, salt baked celeriac, lovage and hazelnut’. The pigeon had been smoked in pine yet the breast was surprisingly bland – perfectly cooked though. There were yet more undressed salad leaves which didn’t seem to bring anything to the party. The worst thing about the dish however was the lovage purée which was so bitter it was complete overkill. My gentleman companion’s ‘lamb, smoked aubergine, wild garlic, yoghurt, onions’ was far better, yet it still struggled to taste as good as it looked.
A pre-dessert of lime and ginger sorbet was eye-poppingly sharp – it was an attack on the senses to say the least. The dessert however was the tastiest thing we’d eaten all day; ‘strawberry, pistachio and white chocolate’. It not only looked stunning but it had the perfect balance between sweet and refreshing – it was a proper lovely pud.
Our lunch at Typing Room wasn’t a disaster but where the food was concerned, we felt it was all a bit ‘style over substance’. Dishes looked pretty but nothing tasted that enjoyable – which is the most important thing surely? Service, although sweet, felt untrained and under prepared, no-one seemed to know where the toilet was which was quite bizarre. Perhaps in a year or so the Typing Room will be great, but it’s got a long way to go.