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Typing Room at the Town Hall Hotel in London

Rating: 89.
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Earlier this month, Harden's reported that in the past year no fewer than 148 new restaurants opened in London. In the press release of the 2015 London restaurant guide, Harden's named Typing Room as one of the 10 most notable newcomers. Typing room is the first solo-restaurant of chef Lee Westcott and is located at the Town Hall Hotel in East London, a space previously occupied by Nuno Mendes' Viajante. Lee Westcott comes with an excellent résumé; he worked for four years alongside Tom Aikens, including time as head chef at Aiken's eponymous restaurant in Chelsea (now closed); he did stages at Per Se and Noma and before opening his own restaurant, he was executive chef at Jason Atherton's restaurants 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry in Hong Kong. Typing Room is financially backed by Jason Atherton; it opened its doors in May 2014.

(courtesy of Typing Room)

Typing Room is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and for lunch Wednesday through Saturday. There are two tasting menus on offer; there's a 5-course menu for £60 and a 7-course menu for £75, and at lunch there's a set lunch menu (2 courses £24, 3 courses £29). I had dinner with my husband at Typing Room on Saturday 15 November 2015 and we both had the 5-course tasting menu.

Dinner started with a selection of snacks and a sourdough bread and a small soft loaf, accompanied by crispy chicken skin butter and marmite butter sprinkled with toasted barley.The snacks were profiteroles with a courgette and basil cream filling and some black olive puree on top; crispy fish skin covered with smoked cod roe cream, avocado, paprika and dill; and pig's trotters croquetas, topped with a fantastic bacon and brown sauce marmelade. Last to arrive was a small bowl filled with a light and foamy chestnut cream, a cep cream, topped with some puffed, dehydrated potato. At the bottom of the bowl was finely chopped apple and chestnut. A wonderful start of this meal, the snacks delivering attractive and original flavour combinations.

The first course of the tasting menu was fresh lobster and lobster agnolotti, served with pickled cucumber 'spaghetti' and cucumber balls, lardo, a sprinkling of crumbs and complemented by a dashi stock infused with coriander and dried mushrooms. A good-looking dish that was full of flavour. Well-made agnolotti and I loved the delicate filling, which had been lightly seasoned with citrus. Nice sharpness from the cucumber and the intensely flavoured dashi broth added depth to the dish.

Second course was an intricate cauliflower dish that combined different textures and several cooking methods. There was roasted cauliflower, a rich 'yeasted' cauliflower puree, mini cauliflower florets, deep-fried cauliflower and fresh cauliflower. A variety of flavour intensities, ranging from light and fresh to rich and powerful. Lovely, distinctive, nutty flavours from the cauliflower puree, the yeast had added a lovely touch of maltiness. Also on the plate were some some burnt capers, some fresh grapes and some mint oil for freshness. The only letdown was the deep-fried cauliflower, which was greasy.

This was followed by a piece of grilled, deliciously moist eel, served with finely chopped fried mushrooms, sliced raw white mushrooms, mushroom jelly, trumpet mushrooms, a mushroom dumpling, a mushroom infusion and garnished with some watercress leaves. A nice medley of mushroom flavours and textures which married well with the rich and oily eel.

Fourth and main course was smoked roe deer, served with confit pear, a smooth pea puree, a crispy kale leaf and pickled blackberries. A superb dish with beautifully cooked deer that had a succulent texture and just the right hint of smokiness. Lovely, mild caramelised sweetness from the pear confit; the freshness of the smooth pear puree balanced this dish out wonderfully. To top it off, hidden behind the kale leaf in the photograph, there was a gorgeous venison bolognese wrapped in suet pastry.

Pre-dessert was lemon sorbet, lemon cream and almond caramel. A refreshing dessert, the caramel adding a nice touch of richness.

Next up was a cep crème brûlée, covered with small pieces of fresh fig and fig puree, accompanied by a fresh and creamy condensed milk ice cream, and some chocolate crumbs. A delicious dessert delivering creaminess, freshness and a lovely touch of nuttiness from the ceps. The crème brûlée was well-made had a wonderful, long aftertaste.

Restaurant Typing Room fits well into an international trend among young chefs that is as easy to recognise as it is difficult to define exactly. In the kitchen the common theme seems to be a 'natural' cuisine, focusing on the clean and fresh flavours of the local and seasonal ingredients employed. On the wine list there typically is a focus on biodynamic and 'natural' wines from small producers; in the dining room these restaurants tend to do away with the traditional paraphernalia of Michelin starred restaurants, preferring a more stripped down ambiance - the term bistronomy has been coined in this respect. Copenhagen, London and Paris seem to be the hotspots for this trend, but many excellent representatives are to found elsewhere too. From a gastronomic perspective the unifying element is the pursuit of a proximity to nature, but interpretations of the theme differ widely, from cool to comforting, from minimalistic to complex and from dogmatic to practical.

Lee Westcott's interpretation of a 'natural' cuisine brings forth quite individualistic dishes that deliver original and interesting flavour combinations. His modernistic, innovative food is definitely on the elaborate side of the spectrum; there are many elements on the plate and I feel that leaving one or two out, might occasionally improve precision and focus. Still, this is inspired food, cooked by a chef who understands the flavour of his ingredients very well. There is a nice, warm buzz in the dining room with its open kitchen. Service was brisk and friendly, although unfortunately our waitress was not always able to tell us exactly what was on the plate and did not seem too keen on finding out either. The wine list offered some interesting choices, including a very rare and delightful Mauzac Noir. Typing Room is an exciting new restaurant and I really enjoyed my meal there. It seems that for once I agree with Harden's - bien etonné de se trouver ensemble...

Posted 24-12-2014


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