Words and Photography by Su-Lin Ong
Extraordinary eating begins when convention and caution are thrown to the wind. Tonight’s one night stand is to enter mind-stretching realms, with the lofty promise to ‘engage all the senses, to restore, challenge and enrich’.
Too tame! It’s a burst of adventurous fun: stones that aren’t stones, the zingiest kaleidoscopic colours, altered states of texture, and flavours that have a piercingly natural clarity.
So this is it; when two Michelin starred chefs partner up as in the vision of Nuno Mendes at Viajante. One of his six selected co-hosts in his Craft season which ran in April is Rasmus Kofoed of Geranium in Copenhagen. Rasmus is the only chef in the world to hold a gold, silver and bronze medal from Bocuse d'Or.
Geranium in the centre of Copenhagen is set high up. Urban meets rural as you connect with the tops of trees and windmills in view.
Viajante in Bethnal Green, East London, is in the restored art deco Town Hall Hotel (see earlier review here). I pass pubs frequented by notorious criminals the Kray brothers and streets of faceless shops to get there.
Choosing a late sitting tonight challenges this Viajante-Geranium dinner to prove itself all the more. Skip forward some 18 incredible creations over three hours, and it is 1.30am when we finish eating. I feel as if I’ve taken a trip through a dream cloud and emerged supremely energized. Buzzing.
Each dish is presented at table in modest detail by the chefs, including Mendes and Kofoed. It’s a seamless sequence without any ceremony. Just as well; it’s been a stupendous week – both teams must have been up all night before celebrating their leap up the league of the World’s Best Restaurants.
As for us guests, it’s tempting to play the game of guessing whose dish is whose creation. The real joy is experiencing how the signature style of each chef weaves round each other, emerging, re-emerging, creating a harmony with some characterful clout along the way.
The menu is a mystery, and when I finally see it at the end of dinner, the descriptions are short and stripped back – incredibly liberating. You really want to understand the ingredients and composition, but not long into the dinner, you just want to sit back, admire and say wow at every bite.
Crispy twigs with sea salt aged cheese and burnt leek.
Razor clams with edible shells.
Crabmeat, peas, nasturtium and crab shell sauce.
Milk skin lactose and squid ink. Space-age food.
Dill stones and separate dish of lactic acid fermented vegetables with salmon roe.
Langoustine with braised chicken skin, pine and chopped radish.
Smoked bacon & walnut sourdough and potato baguettes with beurre noisette and hay smoked whipped butter.
A fluid jelly made from ham from northern Denmark, fragrant thyme and tomato water, cooked at a constant 62 degrees C.
Charred leek heart with lobster and bitter ground elder flower.
White cabbage with shoots and stems, pickled leek flower and parsley with champagne butter sauce (our preferred substitute for oysters).
Smoked bone marrow with carrot and dehydrated carrot skin.
Brill wrapped in milk skin with vanilla and samphire.
A royally red tartare made from leg and heart of lamb and smoked pork fat, red beetroot sauce, truffle & blueberry, gel of beetroot & cherry vinegar.
Meltingly delicate Iberico pork and fermented cabbage and peppers.
Reduced milk sorbet, lemon granita, smoked cucumber, salty cucumber jelly and linen seeds.
Naked trees of crispy puréed prunes and frozen dark beer and biodynamic cream infused with beechwood.
Beetroot & caraway ice cream.
Eggs of dried pine & caramel & chocolate.
Finally, petits fours of frozen oil of vanilla and cèpes mushroom truffles.
We drank Filipa Pato Bical & Arinto 2011 Beiras and Gerhard Pittnauer Alte Reben St Laurent 2009 Burgenland Austria.
Viajante, Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF, Tel. 020 7871 0461.
Geranium, Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8., DK-2100 Copenhagen, Tel. +45 69 96 00 20
Su-Lin Ong (@sloLondon) dined on behalf of The London Foodie as a guest of Nuno Mendes, Rasmus Kofoed, Viajante, EightyFour.