Great meal at Viajante last night. Very much more assured and sensible cooking than we had at Bacchus, Mendes’ previous restaurant incarnation.

The style of cooking is not for everyone, as it is the nearest to El Bulli we’ve had in London (but still not a patch, of course). The menu is not a menu. It’s purpose is simply to ask you how many courses you would like (6, 9, or 12 for dinner). The dishes are brought to you and then explained before you eat them. Realistically, you just have to let the kitchen and waiting team take you on a journey rather than plan your evening in detail as you might at a traditional restaurant.

The team are quite keen on the wine pairings, and to be honest, they were reasonable value, small glasses and mostly worked very well with the food.

We plumped for the nine course menu which took about four hours, so not ideal for a Sunday night. However, there were some great, great elements on it.

Viajante menu, 15th August 2010

I particularly enjoyed (stand-outs in bold):

  • House sashimi (genius with peppers)
  • Thai explosion II (beautiful asian influence)
  • Braised salmon skin and fried aubergine (lovely confit salmon)
  • King crab with chicken jus and spicy paste (yum)
  • Halibut, confit yolk, aspargus ribbons and sofrito (stunning halibut and a lovely new texture in the confit egg yolk)
  • Slow cooked squab with grilled radishes, stracciatella and pine salt (ultra rare pigeon with great accompaniments)
  • Lemon and thai basil (looks like this doesn’t always work, but it worked for us)
  • Mushroom-flavoured chocolates (made one of the party laugh, but was delicious)

That’s not bad going given there were sixteen “dishes” for the evening. There were no failures as there were at Bacchus, but certainly some that weren’t quite right (stray olive slices in one, iberico broth that wasn’t a patch on Bulli’s joselito soup, for example).

Some pictures to aid comprehension and memory. Lovely custom made crockery and beautiful on the eye. Hover over for details.

The reviews have been mixed (although of a very different menu to ours), but this is exciting, exuberant and classy cooking, so long as you can relax and let the restaurant take you on a journey.

Positive reviews from the Telegraph, London Eater (with a must improve caveat), typical Times (more chat than review), Cheese and Biscuits (avoid the nonsense), London Foodie (highly recommended), Metro, Tamarind and Thyme, Fay Maschler in the Standard, Gourmet Traveller (new and exciting addition)

Negative reviews from the Independent (fussy joylessness!), Guardian (one in three hit rate).