The Corner Room in Bethnal Green is one of those places I have been eager to visit, having read numerous blog posts showing such pretty dishes, and finally I made it there to try it for myself.
The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green is a concept that confuses me. Is it still a Town Hall? Was it? I don’t know. Is it a boutique hotel? The restaurant pedigree it can boast would suggest that yes it is, but then why would you have a boutique hotel in East London, in Zone 2? The Town Hall Hotel has 2 restaurants. The first at the front of the hotel is Viajante, a one Michelin star restaurant helmed by Nuno Muendes, known for its high end concept meal, that tends to polarize people as either being somewhere people love, or just don’t get. Viajante is yet another restaurant I long to try, however one gloomy, rainy Sunday we set off to The Corner Room tucked away in the far back corner of Tow Hall Hotel.
Dodging puddles and prams we arrived slightly water-logged in a surprisingly bright clear room. The room reminds me of Brawn, also in Bethnal Green. Huge windows fill the room with natural light, sparse wooden furniture and white walls. The kind of dining room it is easy to spend hours eating, drinking and relaxing in. The Corner Room is also run by Nuno Muendes but offers a cheaper and more casual dining experience. At dinner The Corner Room is a free-for-all, ie no bookings. At lunch however? Not only can you book, but they offer 3 courses for £21.
This lunch offer seems particularly generous, especially when they bring over 2 types of bread. The brown bread was studded with nuts and sultanas and was all kinds of lovely.
Both of our starters were surprisingly served cold, but for me the temperature worked with what I had ordered. The mackerel had a slightly firm texture, which actually reminded me of the texture of the ocean trout served at Tetsuya’s. The carrots were soft and sweet while the pickled onions added acidity for contrast. A light and delicate looking dish that packed more punch than expected.
Duncan’s first course was the squid. Presentation was once again lovely but he expressed disappointment in the cold temperature of the dish. Take this comment with a grain of salt if you will, as I know my dear other half just simply prefers a hot meal over anything served cold.
For my main, I chose the onglet cooked in ash, served with barley and cauliflower. I truly have not eaten such a pretty dish since eating at Dabbous, and even then The Corner Room simply nailed it with presentation. The parley served with it had been slightly fried and leant the dish a crispy, crumbly edge.
Duncan’s main proved much, much more successful, opting for the Iberico pork main (for an extra £3 surcharge). I didn’t personally try any, but Duncan loved it. So much so, he volunteered a bite (this normally never happens). I declined, but he was still not convinced that I was convinced he had the better dish. It was at this point he moved into psychological dining warfare; attempting to somehow get me to admit that I had chosen the worse dish and that I was regretting my choice of beef. None of this worked (you saw what my main looked like, right?) but I guess it serves as proof that the Iberico at The Corner Room is a very good dish. I suppose if you needed even more proof, a direct quote from Duncan: ‘If I was to compare this Iberico to Dabbous, I would give Dabbous a 3/10 and this was an 8/10’. High praise indeed.
While I was not willing concede defeat on the choice of mains, but I will on desserts. Simply listed as ‘Watermelon’, I wasn’t listening too well when they gave me a description of what was in it. To be fair, it wasn’t bad, it was just not a proper pudding. The grilled watermelon had a nice smokiness and it was very pretty and pink. This was a light and fresh dessert probably more suitable for Summer but that day it was rainy and grey and I wish I had gone for something creamy. Not a bad dish, just one not for me. What was lovely was the dessert wine we ordered. I know nothing about wine and refuse to pretend like I do, however I do know that I love the sweetness of it; definitely something I could drink regularly.
And here is Duncan’s ‘winning’ dessert. Frozen panacotta served with a grilled apple half, apple puree and jelly cubes. It looked really good. So good I wanted to smack it off the table in retribution over my non-pudding. Duncan simply ate while shaking his head at my sad dessert face, willing him to share. He didn’t.
Despite what Duncan may think, 2/3 of my dishes were lovely, and I would easily and happily love to come back again. Portions were not large, but it can’t be argued that you don’t get a beautifully cooked and carefully presented creative and unique meal.