I hadn’t planned to review restaurants on my blog, but after having my parents visit, and eating out more often than I usually would, I thought it might be time to add in the occasional review, especially when there are some complete gems that I keep coming back to for their delicious, seasonal veggie-centric dishes.
One of the requirements I always have when choosing a restaurant is, obviously, that is has some good vegetarian options. I don’t mean a risotto, or a half arsed pasta. I can cook those easily at home folks!
I mean beautiful, creative attention to making vegetables really, really sing and not just added on as an afterthought or relegated to a side dish.
The restaurant I want to introduce you to first, is The Corner Room. It’s tucked away in the back of the Town Hall on Bethnal Green Road. I’ve been on a number of occasions & it never fails to impress, despite its petite size. The room itself is small, situated in the back of the Old Town Hall (now a hotel) with wooden tables & interesting shelving & light fittings, plus a spiral staircase feature that goes nowhere, which I find quite charming.
This restaurant was initially run as a casual offshoot of Nuno Mendes’ ( Ex El Bulli and now of Chiltern Firehouse) Michelin starred El Viajante which was also in the Town Hall, he left in Feb 2014 and whilst El Viajante is gone, The Corner Room remains. I ate at the Corner Room whilst he was at the helm on a few occasions & was really impressed. He was replaced with John Christie in Sept 14. The restaurant is now headed up by Richard Wilkins & I have to say, goes from strength to strength under his talented guidance.
The menu is neat, only 3 or 4 options per course.
And is ever-changing according to seasonality. There is alway at least one vegetarian option for each course. This time, The Gardener & I took my parents who were visiting, so between us I think we pretty much sampled every dish on offer.
I have seen a few reviews complaining about portion size.. and yes, the portions ARE on the small size, however ,with bread, ( and the house made bread is dangerously delicious) it’s easy to completely savour and enjoy a 3 course meal, which you will want to do, as the desserts are as completely charming as the entrée and main courses, without feeling like you might explode.
Every time I’ve visited The Corner Room, I’ve had completely different dishes, according to the season. This time I started with an exquisite Heirloom tomato salad, simple, with smoked mozzarella & a light basil scented sorbet. It was late summer on a plate. It’s a classic combination of flavours, but this was made new by the basil sorbet. My mother was entranced by a goats cheese & beetroot salad to start with. Whilst this sounds like quite a ‘standard’ vegetarian dish, this variation was more like a beetroot carpaccio. Beautiful, delicate and according to her, absolutely divine.
My main course was a gorgeously bosquey/foresty combination of fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced, laid over a silky rich mushroomy truffle sauce, punctuated by grains of toasted hazelnuts & delicate thyme leaves. It was like walking through the woods, rich and loamy, yet with a fresh breeze. Utterly delicious.
It takes a very special restaurant to tempt me into eating dessert.
In this case, I didn’t feel overly full, as the portions are not huge, and as I had eaten there before, knew that the desserts are quite light, yet very very delicious, so I was happy to want to eat one. Mine was an exquisite chocolate mousse thing, rich, yet not too sweet. My mother had some kind of fantastical sorbet with a centre of peaches. Each were subtle, a little tantalizing, and moreish. Just what you want in a dessert.
I’d like to be able to tell you about the wine list, but I didn’t choose the wine this time. I can say however that the wine we did drink was delicious & completely complemented the food.
All together, it roughly cost us £50 per head, which, for 3 courses plus wine, in London, with the quality of food & quite charming service I think is quite extraordinary.
The Corner Room is almost a little secret space. Somewhere to take a date unexpectedly after a walk around the too cool for school environs of Hackney or Victoria Park. Or somewhere to take a hip out-of-town guest who’s been to London a few times & has a discerning palette. Certainly it’s somewhere you can take your vegetarian friends, the attention to detail that is lavished on the veggies won’t leave them disappointed & wondering why they – yet again, just have a boring old pasta dish to look forward to… If you are vegan, I would call & ask ahead to see if they can adapt dishes for you. (I’d hazard a guess that they can, and quite easily given the quality of ingredients & passion for vegetables).
I’m on the lookout for other vegetarian & vegan friendly restaurants.. I have every intention of visiting & potentially reviewing them, and not only the veggie exclusive ones ( although these I DO love, but they are generally already preaching to the converted), I’m on the look out for restaurants where, in my view, they are doing that rare thing; making vegetable dishes so alluring, that non veggies are tempted to try them. And maybe to take that one step closer to a kinder, more plant based, but no less delicious diet.
Because. Vegetables are DELICIOUS!