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Typing Room review

Typing Room review

by Gemma Harrison 17 September 2015

Set in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel, Lee Westcott’s Typing Room exemplifies the style of modern British cuisine that’s taken the capital’s restaurants by storm. Gemma Harrison ate her way through the menu.

Gemma is Marketing Manager at Great British Chefs. She can usually be found in a restaurant, at a food festival or cooking at home.

Lee Westcott’s Typing Room has been on my restaurant wish list since the day it opened, so when a friend (who’s become a bit of a regular) asked if I wanted to go there for lunch, I couldn’t say anything but yes.

Running kitchens for Tom Aikens and Jason Atherton, it’s in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel that Lee Westcott has been given the chance to shine with Atherton’s backing (although he’s very much a silent partner). This room in the hotel previously housed Nuno Mendes’ Michelin-starred Viajante, so there were some very big shoes left to fill – and Lee certainly fills them with aplomb.

I love watching chefs work and it’s always a pleasure to sit near an open kitchen – it just adds an extra dimension to the experience. In contrast to the serenity of the dining room, the kitchen was a hive of activity – Lee plating at the pass with incredible speed, yet precise dexterity – while front of house were utterly charming and extremely knowledgeable. I’d single out Frederic Marti, the head sommelier, for particular praise – his recommendation of a white blend from Girona, Spain held its own with every course.

Dining at lunch time, we had the choice of the five course tasting menu (priced at £60) or the lunch menu (two courses for £24, with three priced at £29). It was a tricky task to pick, but we decided to go for the lunch menu and ordered all six dishes on offer to share – inherently greedy people when it comes to food, we wanted the chance to try everything.

We began with a series of snacks – ‘onion bhaji, yoghurt and mango chutney’, ‘crispy fish skin, smoked cod, oyster and dill’ and ‘pig’s head and smoked apple’. My favourite had to be the pig’s head – its beautifully soft flesh encased in a crispy coating with a smoky apple purée beneath (I’d eat them every day if I could). The onion bhaji was as far from an Indian takeaway side as you could get, with a delicate tuile-like shell holding creamy yoghurt, and a mango chutney for dipping – with cucumber dust at one end, it was rather reminiscent of a tiny cigar. To some, crispy fish skin might not sound like the most appealing thing to eat, but imagine the texture of the lightest prawn cracker you’ve ever eaten, with just the merest hint of fish – then topped with tiny dots of smoked cod brandade, oyster emulsion and feathery dill fronds, with a side of smoked turbot roe on oyster leaves.

Before the starters, the famed IPA sourdough with marmite butter and popped barley arrived – so inviting, I tore into it with abandon – actually neglecting to photograph it. Praised by countless food critics, it has become one of the best-known dishes in the restaurant, with the Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin proclaiming it ‘worthy of stalking obsession’.

 
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Crispy fish skin, smoked cod, oyster and dill
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Pig's head and smoked apple

The starters were ‘mackerel, strawberry grapes, burnt cucumber and quinoa’ and ‘yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers and mint’. What struck me immediately about both of these dishes were the use of grapes, with the strawberry variety adding a blush of colour to the mackerel. I’m not a fan of grapes on a cheese board, so I was surprised at how well they complimented these savoury courses – I’ll certainly be looking for ways to include them in dishes at home. The yeasted cauliflower is one of Lee’s signature dishes, and the one I was most looking forward to trying. It didn’t disappoint and I reluctantly passed over my half-finished plate to swap for the rest of the mackerel. It was hard to decide what my favourite element was – the dehydrated cauliflower on top, the heavenly yeasted cauliflower purée or the cauliflower fondant pieces. But it’s a dish that would bring me back to the restaurant, regardless of what else was on the menu – I could have eaten it three times over.

 
 
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Mackerel, strawberry grapes, burnt cucumber and quinoa
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Yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers and mint

Our main courses were ‘suckling pig, flat peach, chard and dandelion’ and ‘cod, mussels, watercress and mushroom’ – and it was here that I was glad we’d chosen to share. I will always pick meat over fish for main course, but the cod was probably the best fish dish I’ve ever eaten – so seemingly simple and unassuming, it had so many levels of flavour and texture. The gherkins and mussels providing sweet and salty notes, with the cod (easily yielding with the barest nudge of a fork) topped with crunchy crumbs. The suckling pig dish was made up of loin and belly with little onions charred alongside the peaches. A particular highlight on this plate was the pale pink peach purée – its sweet, yet refreshing flavour lifting what could have been a very rich dish.

 
 
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Suckling pig, flat peach, chard and dandelion
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Cod, mussels, watercress and mushroom
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Watermelon, yoghurt and mint

For the final course, there was a dessert of ‘watermelon, yoghurt and mint’ followed by ‘cheese with homemade chutney and bread’. A real palate cleanser, the dessert paired compressed watermelon with mint parfait, yoghurt sorbet and wafer thin meringue shards – not something I would have chosen from a more extensive dessert menu, but I would order it again in a heartbeat. Finally, a trio of cheeses, homemade bread and tuile-like crackers, with quite frankly the best plum chutney known to man.

There wasn’t a single bum note on this menu and every bite was a real pleasure. So when (and it’s when, not if) the Michelin man comes calling, I have no doubt that Typing Room will be packed to the rafters. It’s a good job I’ve already made my next reservation. . .

Find out more about Typing Room and try cooking some of Lee Westcott’s dishes at home.

 
 

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