Portuguese

Viajante (Second Visit) – Bethnal Green

I do tend to go on quite a bit about Viajante. I went once last year for the 3-course lunch, and it ranked no.2 in my best restaurants in London list behind Launceston Place. This time, I went back for dinner. A full six plate extravaganza, which  – with all the amuses and a special bonus dish sent over to our table by the restaurant’s lovely comms guy, Richard – ended up being about 13. It’s a lot to take in, and you don’t need to know my every thought, so I’ll be succinct. The pictures say a lot more about the complexity of what we ate, so I’ll let the visuals do the talking.

Part 1 – The amuse bouche and bread and butter:
Crab doughnuts, Thai Explosion II and Duck Ham

Mackerel with lemon and Wood Sorbet

Fresh Cheese with Peas and Flowers

Bread with Chicken Skin Butter and Black Pudding Butter

I’m still in love with the Thai Explosion II and it’s delicious crispy chicken skin, but what really took it for me was the Black Pudding butter. It certainly wouldn’t win any healthy eating awards, but my god, it was worth it.

Part 2 – The starters:

Squid with Ink, Pickled Radishes and Sea Lettuce

White, Green and Wild Asparagus with Milk Skin

Leek Heart with Lobster and Leek Consumme

By far, my favourite was the lobster. Shocking, I know. There was something about the charred leek and richness of the lobster that worked well together. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the asparagus, mainly because of the cold asparagus jelly it was served over. It was a difficult texture to take in.

Part 3 – The Mains:

Cod and Potatoes with Egg Yolk and Saffron



Iberico Pork with Cereals, Hot Potato Gel and Clams

The cod was fantastic (especially with the perfectly formed egg yolk in the middle), but the pork wins hands down for best dish of the night. I only wished it was bigger. The meat was so tender, I could cut it with a spoon.

Side note: The pork was so good, in fact, I’ve nominated it for a food competition that So Feminine is running to find the best dishes in the UK. I was asked a couple weeks ago if I wanted to submit something, and honestly, I couldn’t think of anything more deserving. If you want to check out the other nominations, check them out at So Feminine on their food page. Hopefully, Viajante’s pork will be showcased up there soon.

Part 4 – The Desserts:

Frozen Maple with Shiso and Green Apple

White Chocolate with Grapefruit and Lemon

Pickled and Raw Cucumbers with Milk Sorbet

Having a tasting menu means the server will always ask if you have any allergies. This is the first time I haven’t said cucumber, and what happens? A cucumber dessert. *le sigh* While the smell did turn my stomach, I was assured by my friend that it was actually quite tasty. Out of the three, though, it was all about the white chocolate, bitter grapefruit contrast. Refreshingly different.

We finished off with Viajante’s classic petite fours including two chocolate truffles and the luscious Vanilla Cream:

All in all with two cocktails and three small glasses of wine each, it was a budget-breaking £220 for two (aka more than I’ve spent on dinner pretty much ever).  It was lovely from beginning to end, and it’s no wonder the restaurant earned its first Michelin star last year. However, next time, I will probably stick to the slightly more manageable lunch or go to The Corner Room (the newest Viajante venture I can’t wait to try)

Viajante on Urbanspoon

Bonjardim: om nom nom’ing in Portugal

One simply can’t go to Portugal without having a little Peri Peri Chicken. I was told that the best in the country was from A Rampa in Monchique, but alas, only five days in the country (and most of them at a beach), I couldn’t make it. Instead, on my first day in Lisbon, I took to TripAdvisor and my trusty guidebook to find Bonjardim, a cheap and cheerful eatery off a charming winding alleyway in the Baixa district.

Arriving shortly after 2 (tactically before siesta), I was seated upstairs and presented with bread, cheese and a croquetta. These little nibbles are only charged if you eat them, and being as famished as I was, I happily did.

The menu was expansive with most mains seemingly priced around the 10 euro mark, which I figured was totally fair. Naturally going with the Peri Peri, some chips a bit of red wine, I was surprised when it all arrived to the table within minutes (telling me that not only had it probably waiting, they were also trying to rush me out so they could actually close before dinner service).

No matter though. The chicken was tender and the skin crisp. The portion was huge (the picture is only half of it), but somehow I managed to most of it. It was spicy, perhaps a bit too salty, but still put Nandos to shame (and I actually like Nandos). The biggest surprise was when the bill came.

9 frickin’ 80.

Apparently the prices on the menu were ‘sharing’ prices. For a single diner, they cut everything in half. Those little nibbles at the beginning of the meal were 35 euro cents, and my half bottle of wine (I just asked for ‘red wine’ and that’s what they brought me instead of a glass) was €2.80.

I’ve never been so shocked in my life – tasty to boot. Go here when you’re in Lisbon. For the price, it’s impossible to be disappointed.

Bonjardim
Travessa de S. Antao 11
Lisbon, Portugal
01-342-4389

Senhora Mae: om nom nom’ing in Portugal

Trying to figure out where to eat in Lisbon there are a few things that keep popping up: Pastéis de Belém, pretty much anything ‘cheap Peri Peri’ (more on this later) and Senhora Mae.

Ranked no. 20 on Trip Advisor‘s best restaurants in Lisbon (out of 554), not budget breaking and located on the lovely hilly streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, I knew I had to try it.

Specialising in ‘modern’ Portuguese cuisines, Senhora Mae has had accolades across the board for their bold and innovative style. Oddly enough though, I couldn’t really see what was ‘Portuguese’ about the menu at all. It’s not a bad thing, just a bit of a misnomer.

Though the inside of the restaurant – with its exposed rock, beautiful oak tables and smart lighting – was beautiful, I couldn’t be tempted away from the Senhora’s rather modest patio with a view of the famous Tram 28 rumbling by every few minutes and the sound of Fava music lofting from the apartment next door. It was a good vibe.

I ordered a glass of wine and some bread with a lovely sun-dried tomato spread, but my eye was taken to the mains – odd combinations, that they were.

My immediate reaction was that the chef was pretty damn ambitious. The menu was rather large and there were a lot of different cuisine-types to boot (Duck burgers to Sweet and Sour Shrimp with Papadoms).  I was hoping it wouldn’t be disastrous (Jack of all trades, etc) and was eventually tempted by what sounded simple enough: Enrolado de Vitela c/ Amêndoa e Puré de Maçã – Rolled veal w/ almond and apple puree (14.00 €):

While it was not at all what I was expecting, somehow they pulled it off. Sure it was a bit pretentious; sure it was nearly a foot tall; and sure it had everything in it but the kitchen sink, but it worked.

The veal was sliced thin and tender, wrapped several times around a bit of spinach and mushrooms, housed in a crisp wonton and topped with a generous disc of goat’s cheese, a poached apple and caramelised figs. It should have been all wrong, but there was enough savoury to balance out the sweet. Naturally after finishing off the monster, I was stuffed. Dessert was absolutely not an option.

I’m guessing if my ‘simple’ rolled veal arrived GIANT, with everything but fireworks, the rest of the menu is the same – a recipe for disaster, surely. In fact, upon returning to London, I came across a 2/10 review from Cara at Ms Gourmet Chick for that very reason. So the only thing I can warn is: go to Senhora Mae with few expectations. You may leave happy, you may leave slightly confused, but no matter what, you will leave with a full stomach.

Largo de São Martinho 6
1149 Lisbon, Portugal
218 275 599