Typing Room at the Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

4 years ago

The Vibe

Viajante, the Michelin Starred eatery in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel, moved west some months ago. However, East Londoners will be delighted to discover that it has been replaced by a superb successor in the form of Typing Room, a restaurant that brings style and culinary sophistication to East London.

The walk down Cambridge Heath Road from the Central Line isn’t the prettiest, but once inside you quickly realise you are on to a good thing. The staff are attractive and solicitous, the diners hip and refined, the décor soft and welcoming. This is the place to impress on that high-stakes third date, to show that special someone that you’re serious and you’ve got taste.

The Order

The food here is exceptional. The restaurant is housed in a grand Edwardian building in an area that epitomises contemporary London, and the food reflects this blend of old and new. Go for the tasting menu – 6 courses, each offering surprising, playful twists on traditional British ingredients. A mackerel starter is served sushi-style alongside passion fruit, while a full plate is concocted out of cauliflower creatively prepared in different ways. This is a truly innovative dining experience with skilful touches – octopus carpaccio here, a little burnt cucumber there – woven in to burnish the dishes.

The wine pairing rose to the challenge when accompanying this catalogue of delights. The Spanish sommelier was knowledgeable and charismatic, artfully matching wines from various countries with each course. The highlight was an organic English white, Davenport: Horsmonden, which combined a floral nose with a pleasingly dry palate.

Sometimes the tasting menu set-up can be a bit disruptive when you’re trying to find your conversational mojo, but the staff succeed in serving the plates and talking you through the combinations without ever being overbearing.

The Game

Dinner here will be an intimate and memorable moment in your relationship – one to savour. Arrive early and grab a cocktail in the bustling hotel bar – they offer a number of their own gin confections to steady those nerves. By the second wine pairing you’ll be gushing about the food and drink. By the fourth you’ll be bound together in mutual congratulation of your fine taste, and by the sixth you’ll be feeling carefree and ready to take this further. You’re a short hop from a number of great bars so there’s no excuse not to make a night of it – if you’re feeling reckless, the bedrooms are right upstairs…

The Faults

You’ll be paying 3 figures per head for the tasting menu and wine pairing, so this might not be the place for a speculative first date. But given the exquisite experience, you’ll consider it money well spent.

Sex Factor

4. Pull out all the stops.

Launceston Place, Kensington

4 years ago

The Vibe

The idea of going for dinner on a first date strikes fear into the hearts of most. Add a Michelin star to the mix and you’re literally daring them to flake. Launceston Place in Kensington is old school West London dining in its simplest form – no eclectic fusion menus, no Scando/Modernist interiors, barely a reflective surface in sight. It’s just a classy blue house, on a mews near Gloucester Road, where you can enjoy exceptional food and wine in a dining room with less than 12 people. Parties of two will be seated perpendicular to each other at white-clothed tables where, in the evening, the candlelight and wine glasses as big as cereal bowls calm you right down. This is an unexpected 4-5 hour date, and surprisingly reasonable thanks to some great set menus (£35 for 3 courses, plus way too much on drinks).

The Order

While nursing your cocktails in the wooden-paneled reception room, you’ll be handed a pile of menus: wine, cocktails, a la carte, taster, set meals and the Sunday lunch. Your friendly and clipped waiter will then talk you through some specials to add into the burgeoning mix and inform you that whatever combinations you desire are possible. If you’d like to sub dessert with brandy, go for it. It’s this ease of ordering that makes LP different from rather stuffier Michelin joints and makes a dinner date considerably less stressful.

Go for meat in every course, the more game the better. The Partridge breast with rosemary potato puree is insanely good, as is the frozen crumbly foie gras that features in several dishes. An amuse bouche of cauliflower mousse with hidden curried lentils and truffle oil will rock your goddamn world – we would have necked those all night. You may be too full for cheese, which is a shame as the tray is enormous, but the mignon chocolate ball with salted caramel , foamy bits et al, is a fitting enough end to a damn perfect meal.

The Game

The obvious option would be to go for an evening meal here. However, if you’re ballsy enough, I’d suggest the following. Meet on a Sunday at 2pm. Head into the front room, shake off the cliché of a Bloody Mary and order two stiff Manhattans – whiskey on a Sunday, now we’re talking. Chat away for a minimum of 30 minutes, choosing your dishes while seated.  Balk the trad vibe and dress messy chic – you’ll feel like true comrades being the tipsy ones amongst Sunday Best diners. Enjoy the meal, I mean really enjoy it. Eat everything, don’t treat the dishes like sharing plates, stick to your own.  Ask the friendly Spanish sommelier to suggest a good red wine, finish a bottle and then get two more glasses. Show how comfortable you are in this setting by doing something atypical, like engaging the waiter in a bet. Win and it’s two more drinks on the house. The restaurant is now empty, the evening beckons and you can stumble out before the dinner service. There’s no one left in there to disapprove, and the booze has dumbed the surprising blow of the bill.

The Faults

The set menu is very reasonable. But go to town on the booze and you’re in deep water.

Sex Factor

3. Totally mood and time of the day dependent, but a real treat nevertheless.

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