For a chef, having mentors like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Ferran Adrià must be akin to taking music classes with Chopin and Brahms.
And Nuno Mendes' career to date demonstrates the qualities of ambition that most good protégés possess. Gathering plaudits by the armful, the Portugese chef is well on his way to emulating the maestros.
After working at the Coyote Café, Jean-Georges and a short stage at El Bulli, Mendes was named Head Chef of the short-lived London cult favourite Bacchus. Next, he opened a supper club in his Loft and emerged from the experience with singular ideas about what a restaurant can be.
His next project was at Bethnal Green's Town Hall Hotel, where his restaurants Viajante and Corner Room dazzled and startled diners in equal measure. Viajante earnt its Michelin star with innovative preparations that Mendes describes as 'Iberian, though somewhat Asian with some South American and Latin American influence' - a globetrotting blend of styles and techniques, as the name (meaning 'Traveller') suggests.
In early 2014, Mendes moved on to Chiltern Firehouse, earning a plethora of gushing reviews just a few weeks after opening.
As you might expect from someone who studied under the godfathers of modern eclectic and experimental cuisine, his preparations often rely on unusual, cosmopolitan ingredients like charred leek hearts, milk skin, and sautéed watermelon prepared in preconception-busting fashion.
While ingredients are led by seasonal availability, it’s the way in which they’re combined, presented and prepared that differentiates Mendes.
The Michelin Guide
The World's 100 Best Restaurants
No 80 (2012)
The Corner Room
Culinary trickster Nuno Mendes – whose Viajante caused a stir with its innovative and experimental blend of flavours, textures, and palate and eye-fooling preparations, as well as an emphasis on flavour and a relaxed, trendy air – opened The Corner Room seemingly as an antidote to the formality and rigour of many other fine dining establishments elsewhere in the capital.
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In a part of London still famed for its jellied eels (which, when all is said and done, is just as unusual in concept as much of the modern molecular gastronomy that is raved about) and which gentrified at a rate of knots over the last decade, Viajante provides a home for experimental cuisine in a typically modern East End environment.
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