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.
It’s strictly drop-in only; you won’t find a menu online, so you need to put your trust in the kitchen (and Mendes’s reputation – after all, he built up a name based on the strength of his supper clubs, which were of a similar ilk). Given that it’s in a part of London where, for a long time, a certain amount of ‘anything goes’ was attached to any night out, a kind of ‘expect the unexpected’ ethos has been built up around The Corner Room.
In the hyper-cool surroundings of the Town Hall hotel, and resembling a normal, elegant dining room – perhaps for a modern French bistro, with its bare wood floors and minimal, refined furnishings – which has been the subject of a hurried makeover by a group of rogue, freelance interior decorators with a penchant for lights and sideboards. It fits perfectly with the ambience of the hotel and raises expectations.
Given the drop-in nature of the place, the food is a little less pyrotechnic than at Viajante – you’ll find seasonal, fresh dishes, with Mendes’s flair writ large in the selection of flavours and the way they’re plated, but things are reined in a bit. Smoked salmon with polenta might arrive as a breakfast item, or poached eggs with chorizo; main dishes revolve around meat and fish with one or two other key elements, and have been described as an ‘unplugged’ version of Viajante’s dazzling showcases of look, feel and taste.
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' London restaurant demonstrates the qualities of ambition that most good protégés possess.
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