Couldn't find a main post for Viajante and thought it more than merited its own - as I'm sure loads of you have been by now!
I won't describe every dish at length as that's more than amply done elsewhere...but firstly just to counter some comments on t'other blogs…
I thought the room was gorgeous. Some have described it as rather too cool for school mismatched seats end trendy scandi chic..I guess we had the benefit of low lighting and it being the evening, but I thought it was lovely.
No, you don't get the menu till the end, but they do tell you what each dish is as it's served.
We had the paired wines option and a) it was all wines (no teas, or beer) and b) it was ridiculously generous. We often had 3 glasses lined up because it was coming so thick and fast!
In fact, that would be my only criticism. Pace. We had the 9 course tasting menu (lord knows how people cope with 12), and we often only had a few minutes between courses. Yes, they're each small, but still. Plus given every dish has a paired wine, I was actually getting borderline stressed about things like loo breaks! In fairness, we did ask them at one point to slow down, and they did, but.
That aside, everything was glorious. Best looking, dressed and informed staff who were all incredibly sweet. Top points for speed of first drink on table and then amuses bouches. And Mendes himself, well, we had the table right by the pass and watching him was like one of those 'what would Buddha do' games...He was a deeply serious yet serene presence by the pass, keeping everyone on their toes, measured, detailed, yet encouraging. He is clearly a master yet was so humble when he came over to say hello. The reason he did was to apologise for a 'bang' in the kitchen (we hadn't heard one) which meant there was a gap in the courses (of 10 minutes max!) so he gave us another free course while we waited of langoustine wrapped in lardo and grilled on a rosemary skewer.
So, to the meal.
Amuses bouches were the Thai Explosion (as gorgeous as mentioned elsewhere) and homebaked bread with whipped butter flavoured with chicken skin.
Cured lobster with ‘sashimi’ which was actually watermelon (have no idea how he treats the fruit to get the texture of tuna), served with Pewsey Vale ‘Contours’ Reisling 2004, Eden Valley.
Tomatoes, strawberries and water (I loved this, himself found it a bit girlie, but the tomato water was like the very essence of the fruit, the mozzarella was the best I’ve had, the strawberry granita avoided being cloying), served with Maculan Pino and Toi 2009, Breganze, Italy.
Charred leeks, white asparagus, hazelnuts and milk skin (my favourite bit of this was the grey cream it was served with, made of the sweet leek char), served with Birgit Eichinger ‘Strasse Hassel’ Gruner Veitliner 2009, Kamptal (this was gorgeous fyi!)
Braised salmon skin and fried aubergine (bit meh, loved the skin though), served with Domaine de Beaurenard, 2008, Chateauneuf du Pape (the first white ‘pape’ I’ve had, was beautifully honeyed and intense).
Sea bass toast, confit yolk and potato (one of my favourites of the evening, still cannot get over the skill to slow cook a single yolk and keep it intact and liftable but still runny inside, the potato was delicate slivers, the toast were slices of rye glued to the fish), served with David Traeger ‘Maranoa’ Verdelho 2008, Victoria.
Venison, berries and mushrooms (oh my days, this was gorgeous, the meat was the most beautifully cooked piece I’ve ever had, done sous vide then flash grilled I guess, served with brambles which I saw Mendes place with tweezers, girolles, loveliness), served with Clos Ouvert, Huaso 2008, Chile. Incidentally, this is when we asked them to slow down, went out for a fag (sue me) and when we came back our glasses had been topped up, which is sweet.
Squab, beetroot yoghurt and pistachio praline (another stunner, though the squab may have been just a teensy bit tough), served with Howard Park ‘Leston’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Margaret River.
Green tea and shiso (a wonderful granite, with a bit of salt I think as well, worked a treat).
Blueberries, goat’s curd, lemon thyme and caramel (lovely, but I still have an issue with mostly savoury sweets…), served with a sweet wine called ‘Quintessence’, don’t have it noted, but it was ecstasy. Almost literally.
Pannacotta ice cream, crumbled oats, hazelnuts, thai basil and apple (this was better, the apple in particular which again I think had the benefit of sous vide to extract its inner appliness, but I was soooo full by this point and left half!), served with Maculan ‘Torcolato’ 2006, Breganze.
And then petits fours – chocolate ‘truffles’ which were, yes, you guessed it, actually flavoured with mushroom.
I had just the best night. It’s event dining – stimulating both to the palate and the brain – but unlike Fat Duck, I actually enjoyed it as much as I would a more ‘normal’ restaurant. It’s experimental, yes, but in the interests of flavour, not scientific breakthroughs. And then as a restaurant, well, you feel everyone CARES – from Mendes himself stood there with his tweezers at the ready, to his waiting staff. And we therefore felt cared for.
Love it. Can’t wait for the excuse to go back! Just this time I’ll tell them in advance to slow down a touch…