Sunday, 25 April 2010

Open For Business

It's been six weeks since I posted. Six incredible, crazy, exhausting weeks during which I've been helping to prepare Viajante for the official opening which took place a week ago. We're open for business!

Several food blogging friends of mine have already sampled what we have to offer during the past month or so and everyone seems to have enjoyed the overall experience even if, inevitably during a startup phase, not everything was perfect. Thanks to you all for putting up with the inconveniences that come with visiting an establishment during a pre-opening trial period and in particular for accepting the restrictions on publishing that applied during soft openings. I'm well aware of just how frustrating it must have been for food bloggers to eat a meal that stimulated both their intellectual and digestive juices, but which they were unable to write about. It's one of the reasons for my blog silence recently - it didn't seem fair for me to post when other food bloggers were so tightly circumscribed.

Viajante at The Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

I'd like to say hello to Douglas Blyde of Intoxicating Prose who, along with the other members of his party, really appeared to enjoy his experience here the other week and who wrote a really excellent article in Glass Magazine. I thought it was a brilliant example of how a skilled columnist can overcome restrictions that would paralyse an ordinary scribbler like me, to end up with an entertaining and informative piece of writing. Next to my long-standing cyber-friends Jeanne Horak of Cook Sister! and Johanna Wagner of The Passionate Cook. I'm so pleased that you and your husband enjoyed your dining experience the Wednesday before last, Jeanne, and equally sorry that you and yours couldn't make it in the end, Johanna. I hope you'll visit us soon - we'll do our best to make up for the earlier disappointment.

Last Saturday night my dad came to visit, accompanied by Niamh Shields of Eat Like A Girl and Patrick Carpenter of Ostrea Edulis. Apologies once more for the fact that we were still on soft openings, which had been extended for a few days - I know it was disappointing and frustrating not to be able to take photos and write up the visit. Recent focus on work has meant I've neglected some other people, so let me make amends. Firstly, apologies for my silence to my long-standing cyber-friend, The Boston Foodie.

Stagières hard at work at NomaNext I want to say hello to another very good friend, Aaron Langille, who started working at Comerç 24 around the time I left and with whom I spent many happy evenings and weekends eating and drinking in Barcelona. London-based American food academic and blogger Adrienne of Gastroanthropology recently ate at Noma in Copenhagen and photographed the stagières hard at work, including Aaron (second left). Those who have followed Nuno's progress from The Loft project to Viajante will know just how influential Noma has been in the development of his philosophy as a restaurateur. Ben Greeno and Clayton Wells from Noma have both been Chef in Residence at The Loft and René Redzepi has been an advisor and mentor for Viajante.

Hopefully, once we've fully settled into a routine (though routine is not exactly what Nuno Mendes and Viajante are about) I'll find time to blog occasionally, although it's likely to be very irregular from now on. Right now my priorities are clear and I am totally focused on the task in hand.

More importantly, there's simply no time for writing. Take a look at this pie chart, which shows how my time is currently divided. On a normal working day I have just one hour to get showered, dressed, breakfasted and prepared for work and the same amount of time in the small hours of each morning to catch something on TV or just flop down with a drink.How my time is divided

There's an ironic twist here. In 2006 I spent five weeks on college work placement at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, trekking across London each day from the East End to The Berkeley Hotel in the West End to learn something about cooking. Some time afterwards a little birdie told me that El Gordo, when told he had a young food blogger working for him, replied: "If he's got time to blog, we're obviously not giving him enough work to do." Well, Mr. Ramsay, I've got plenty enough work to do nowadays thank you, with hardly any time to blog. But it's all worth it. Ask your former protégée Marcus Wareing, now Michelin 2* chef/patron of his eponymous restaurant at The Berkeley Hotel, who trekked across London the other day from the West End to The Town Hall Hotel in the East End to experience the food at Viajante and pleasantly surprise Sabrina at the next table. It was a pleasure to cook for him, as it was also a pleasure to cook recently for the executive chefs of two of your current fine dining restaurants. Presumably they don't have enough work to keep them fully occupied these days. Touché!

To someone very, very specialDuring working hours I'm dedicated to my section, to Viajante and to our customers - the executive chefs, food writers, gastronomes, celebrities and the hundreds of ordinary people who simply love great food. What little time I have to spare outside of work is devoted to spending quality time with a very special person in my life. I hope your question is now fully answered, William.

For those readers who never managed to pay a visit to Bacchus or The Loft and don't know about Viajante, here are the links to Viajante's official websites and online services: Viajante, Viajante Facebook, Viajante Twitter, Viajante at The Town Hall Hotel.

So far I've seen some great comments: "the most exciting opening of the year so far", "tastebuds still singing", "spectacular meal there last night", "groovy", "masterful 12-course journey", "sublime soy jelly consommé", "Nuno's food has gone up several knocks in balance, flow and flavour", "fantastic dinner at Viajante this evening... each dish was meticulous" and (surely a bit OTT) "blew Fat Duck out of water". I especially liked: "I read that [Viajante] as Viagra at first." OK - if our food can help with your more intimate problems... we're only too pleased to help! I hope the writeups that will appear in the coming weeks now we're fully open will be as positive as these initial reviews that I've collated.

Many readers will be aware that, tomorrow night, the magnificent Guildhall in the City of London will once again host the annual San Pellegrino World Top 50 Restaurants event. The list of restaurants is drawn up following a poll of the world's most celebrated chefs, renowned food critics, leading restaurateurs and well-travelled gourmands – collectively known as The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy. San Pellegrino always causes controversy and this year will be no exception. Chefs who have been ignored by Michelin sometimes find themselves propelled to international fame by the recognition paid to them by their peers - Fergus Henderson at St. John was perhaps the best example of this a few years ago. So, watch out for some interesting news in this year's announcements.The San Pellegrino World's Top 50

16 comments:

Douglas Blyde said...

Vastly kind of you, Aidan. I really liked the trioo of dishes on which you worked. Overall, a sensational journey...

docsconz said...

Congratulations on getting it up and running and best wishes for a successful journey!

Brian said...

Sounds like it's off to a great start Aidan. I doubt I'll be able to visit any time soon, but look forward to seeing/hearing more of what is happening over there.

Andrew said...

Darn - I was just in London last month. Don't know when I'll get back.

I enjoy reading your blog. Hopefully your time will be less constrained as you get settled into the new job.

I wish you the best of luck on your new adventure.

Pete said...

I'm still really looking forward to eating at Vijante.

Obviously you've focused on the positive comments but I'd also be interested in your take on some of the less positive reviews. It seems, like with Bacchus, some people love it and some people hate it.

Mike said...

Pete - I've been monitoring all the comments on blogs, in the media and on twitter and I've only seen one single negative review.

I think some of the praise is a bit excessive and there's lots of social networking hype right now, but I've been genuinely staggered at how well people have been receiving the food.

There have been some concerns raised about service, but that's bound to take time to settle in. And there will always be bad nights amongst the good nights for any front of house. Aidan found this out when he chose the wrong night to visit Mugaritz - a restaurant that hardly anyone else has faulted in years!

I'd urge you to find a friend (three would be better as with a table for four you'll be right in front of the chefs) and try it for yourself. Photography and blogging restrictions are lifted now, so you can tell it how you find it.

Pete said...

Hi Mike,

I came across a couple of bad ones on londoneating, and they're about the food not the service. Hence my question. I was interested in one comment about food being lukewarm due to so much attention being placed on presentation. I was just wondering about the kitchen's point of view on that one. I remember at Bacchus, the dishes were plated up without the aid of hot lamps. Is the set up the same at Viajante?

As you know I'm a big fan and so if there's one place I'd love to see do well, it's Viajante. I'll be coming as soon as I can.

Mike said...

I saw that comment, Pete, and maybe someone else has repeated it since I looked. I can't answer your question about equipment, though I certainly remember some good temperature profiling on dishes when I ate there.

Why not post your comment on the Viajante Facebook page? I know that restaurant & bar manager Jeff Stuit is keen to receive feedback both positive and negative, and I'm sure he or someone from Viajante will respond.

If you want my personal summary - I can't remember the last time any dinner experience transformed itself from slightly uncomfortable to totally blissful in the course of three hours, without the alcohol (brilliantly paired, btw!) being responsible.

The food just got better and better and better. We all loved it and I thought the best was easily up there with the best I've eaten at Michelin 1 and 2 star.

Richard said...

Looking forward to coming to see you at some point in the summer, Trig...
Planning a long lunch with the Missus, but currently debating which of us will stay sober...

The London Foodie said...

Hi Adrian, Niamh just told me you are a food blogger too, came to check your blog and found that you were the chap cooking for us at Viajante last 30/04, you seem to be on most of my pics too! Well done, we all really enjoyed our food there.

My thoughts and pics here:
http://www.thelondonfoodie.co.uk/2010/05/london-restaurant-reviews-viajante.html

Sophea Lazane said...

Congratulations on the opening. Hope you're well from now on and ahead. Well done!

Trig said...

Thanks Luiz - I already saw your excellent post and the photo set on Flickr from tehbus and we all really appreciate writeups like yours here at Viajante. It's so good to see my fellow food bloggers able to write and take pictures now that soft openings are over. I may be able to find time to post a roundup of reviews - if so can I use your piccies?

Anonymous said...

I have tried Viajante lately, it has been an amazing experience! http://www.bealondoner.com/fr/blog/nadege/viajante-le-voyage-des-saveurs

Anonymous said...

check this one, you will like it...

http://momskitchen001.blogspot.in/2012/05/paneer-balls.html

Wilbur Smith said...

Congrats,me to planning to do, once again thanks.

FirstClass Foods Inc

CZ Machine Cut - Hearts & Arrows said...

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