Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Typing Room, Town Hall Hotel – Bethnal Green

A colleague recently asked me, “Doesn’t it make it less special if you eat in all these fancy restaurants all the time?”

Corny though it may sound, to me whether it be at the cafe in my local Thai supermarket (here) or a Michelin starred restaurant, every good meal is special.

That said, when my wife wanted to know what I’d like from Father Christmas, I asked if he’d get me a reservation at The Typing Room “and to make it into an extra treat, why doesn’t he also book a suite in the adjoining Town Hall Hotel for us?”

Helmed by the talented Chef Lee Westcott, The Typing Room is one of Jason Atherton's ever expanding and ever impressive portfolio of restaurants. 

He’s a good egg is Father Christmas and he came through again this year (with an early present.)

At dinner, Typing Room offer a 5 course tasting menu (£60) and a seven course (£75); both come with the option of a supplementary smoked eel dish (£10) – as this was a special meal, we chose the seven course + the eel.

Snacks – four of these: an Onion Bhaji Cannelloni with spiced mango chutney; Smoked Cod Mousse with oyster emulsion, dill and paprika on a fish skin wafer; Crispy Pigs Trotter with bacon jam and sorrel and a Chestnut Foam with apple compote and nutmeg. Each one was great but the trotter and cod were our favourites.

The breads came next – a Rosemary Brioche with an accompanying butter studded with crispy chicken skin and an IPA Sourdough with marvellously moreish marmite butter and crispy pearl barley… forget County Life, this marmite butter is the stuff Johnny Rotten should be advertising! #PunkRockButter

The first proper dish was Raw venison, smoked beetroot, turnip & horseradish – this was delightful. The tartare had been topped with a panko style crumb. As well as citrusy bursts from sorrel leaves, more acidity came from lightly pickled turnip. The horseradish was suitably subtle and the smokiness of the beetroot, well judged.

Lobster, cucumber, dashi & lardo – a little lardo with lobster or langoustine is always a good thing; dashi is always a great thing – together, they were an absolute joy. Cucumber cut into udon like strands, shimeji mushrooms and sea herbs made up some of the myriad of flavours and textures of an all round impressive dish.

Yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers & mint – cauliflower and capers are two of my favourite ingredients but I am not a fan of ‘raisins’ in savoury dishes; fortunately, these turned out to be semi-dried grapes, which worked well. To elevate the dish further, I’d have welcomed greater intensity from the confettied mint leaves and oil.

Smoked eel, mushroom dumplings, Madeira & watercress – with a little heat from spiced chickpeas, this was another corker of a dish. Once again, the smoked element had been shrewdly balanced; well worth the supplement paid.

Halibut, brassicas, mussel & spice – with the previous dishes being so good, this dish was always going to be up against it; both my wife and I felt the fish had been a little overcooked which didn’t help. I loved the lime gellé but my wife did not.

Cumbrian shorthorn beef, watercress & hazelnut – a delightful piece of beef and we were back in the game! A little nodule of bone marrow added an extra touch of naughtiness.

It’s a regular bugbear of mine when things are billed as ‘lemon’ but lack sharpness, the tangy pre-dessert of Lemons & Almonds did its palate cleansing job admirably with a tangy sorbet, citrusy oil and soothing almond espuma.

A dish I would not have chosen from the description alone, the final course proved to be another thing of beauty – Smoked apple, Jack Daniel’s & dill. The Jack element deftly handled to create a subtly rarely found when such an ingredient is used in a dessert.

The whole Typing Room / Town Hall Hotel experience was certainly a special one!

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