"The food is imaginative, without being silly, and is not scared to be orthodox"Review Rating: Reviewed by Sean Sheehan
Any new quality restaurant opening in Tower Hamlets – not in trendy Brick Lane but unglamorous Bethnal Green – is worthy of attention and when the food there is an outstanding as The Typing Room’s you best scoot across town asap and relish the experience. Walking along deadbeat Hackney Road, or the shorter schlep from Bethnal Green Underground, might not be aesthetically uplifting but on a Sunday morning there will be momentary visions of pastoral bliss as you pass shoppers from Columbia Road Flower Market carrying colourfull offerings of lupins and delphiniums.
The typing room of Bethnal Green’s town hall got clacking and pinging in 1910 when the building opened for civic business; now part of the Town Hall Hotel, it lacks the Art Deco details that can be appreciated in the refurbished hotel so the designers had to come up with a non-heritage identity. The result feels somewhat like a modish Islington flat: parquet flooring, open kitchen with steel surround and grey tiles, brushed brass trimming. Space is virtuously uncluttered and it needs to be because the Typing Room is not a large restaurant yet it succeeds in not feeling cramped.
The food is sometimes imaginative, without being silly, and at other times is not scared to be orthodox. Think creamy profiteroles, not as a dessert but an hors d’oeuvre, filled with basil-flavoured courgette and black olive, melting gorgeously in the mouth. A second snack, chicken wing ‘drumsticks’, fairly flew off the plate with gay abandon. The surprise element makes a second appearance with a plate of small pieces of raw mackerel mixed with passion fruit and accompanied by the cleansing sensation of radish. A refreshing concoction that went perfectly with a glass of fruitily-inflected English Davenport wine.
The restaurant that previously occupied this space received a Michelin star but then lost it's chef Nuno Mendes who has decamped to the Chiltern Firehouse in the West End; hopefully the Typing Room's chef will not follow suit even though it’s a contender for a star when it comes up with yeasted cauliflower with Lilliputian-sized capers, a combination which worked exquisitely. The serving of turbot that came next was gratifying and prepared the taste buds for the lamb and smoked aubergine that followed. The dessert of chocolate, amaretto and almond was mildly sinful, enhanced by a glass of Pedro Ximanéz which being only 15% was suitably light.
My friend and I had indulged in the six-course tasting menu (£55) and compounded the extravagance by adding the wine pairings (£45), though you can spend less with the á la carte menu or a two-/three-course lunch for £27/32. Wine starts at £29 (£5 a glass).
Sean Sheehan reviewed Typing Room on Mon 30 Jun 2014