About a month ago I was lucky enough to go to Viajante, which (as you can see from my review) was an incredible experience. I was ecstatic that it had set up camp just 10 minute’s from my doorstep, and had already started concocting another ‘celebratory excuse’ to go back…
…So, imagine my absolute horror when I picked up a copy of The Metro a few weeks later which described how “its constituency has tended towards City boys or the wealthier food geek.”
Oh horror of all horrors! As soon as a review makes social generalizations, (no matter how true they might be) it destroys any future, carefree eating experience. The seeds of self-analysis have been sown—no longer is it just a meal, but it’s a statement.
Take Brawn for example. Before AA Gill reviewed it, the restaurant was relaxed and fun and quite cool…but then his damned review labeled the crowd there as single-gear-bike-owning hipsters.
It makes potential diners self-conscious (and can make the restaurant self-conscious too). I haven’t been back since. I’m no way hip enough… I don’t have a fixed gear bike, I can’t play synth, and I’m not that good at irony.
Instead of criticising the restaurant, damning social observations turn off potential diners instead—making them feel like unwanted foreigners who’ll ruin the aesthetics. But these observations are a pain in the ass for those who might fit the stereotype too. If I revisited Viajante, I wouldn’t be able to stop scouring the room to see if anyone was wearing the same TM Lewins-stripes as the city boyfriend. As I gobbled down lobster croquettes, I’d be swallowed up by the guilt of past generations of Smiths looking down on me, wondering where it’d all gone wrong.
The dilemma is that Viajante is a really great restaurant. As I was struggling with this quandary, a sudden solution appeared in the most glorious form. Last month, another Nuno Mendes restaurant opened in The Town Hall Hotel – a cheaper, and more relaxed restaurant, with a pared down menu—all the makings for a delicious, and guilt-free meal.
Corner Room is in an intimate, wood-panelled room on the first floor of the hotel. There are just a few tables set a perfect distance from each other, a gentle breeze floating through open windows, and vases of fresh, meadow flowers which make for a relaxed vibe—certainly nothing too starched. There were quirky little touches like an Alice-in-Wonderland fire door, which makes a mockery of health and safety regulations, and All Saints-esque, industrial lights which stops you from forgetting that you’re still in east London.
Everything on the menu sounded delicious—there wasn’t a single dish that I wouldn’t have been thrilled with. Even better, then starters were a reasonable £7 and the mains were between £10-14 (not bad, considering you can spunk £12 on a main course at Pizza Express).
You’re immediately served complimentary olives stuffed with anchovies and fresh bread, and (although tap water is on offer) Corner Room also offers unlimited, chilled sparkling and still water for £1, which is a nice touch.
All the dishes were served in the beautifully-detailed Nuno Mendes-style. Although the food is cheaper than Viajante, and the menu is shorter there’s no scrimping whatsoever.
So make sure you go. But think carefully about who you go with—if you’re a hipster then take along a sensibly dressed adult; if you’re a City boy then treat an unemployed friend; and if you’re a foodie then take somebody who couldn’t care less. That way we can create a nice cross-section, and stop Corner Room from becoming stigmatized too.
The Corner Room, Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square E2 9NF
(No website, no phone number, no bookings!)
Open 7-10am, noon-10pm Mon-Fri; 7.30-10.30am, noon-10pm Sat, Sun
Meal for two with wine and service: around £70 (forgot to mention that wine starts around £25 which does make the meal a whole lot more expensive…)