Town Hall Hotel,
Patriot Square, London E2 9NF
Tel. 020 7871 0461
Food type: Modern European
Nearest tube: Bethnal Green
Website: Typing Room
Typing Room has been on my list of restaurants to visit since it opened. However, its location (in the less fashionable part of London) plus my habit of only booking last minute meant that it was very difficult to get a table. However, sometime back in December, I had a day off work and managed to secure a table for lunch. No problem given that the restaurant serves the same tasting menu for both lunch and dinner.
The restaurant is located in Town Hall Hotel which was er… an old town hall once upon a time. The part of the building the restaurant is located was the old typing room of the town hall, hence the name it has adopted. The dining room has a fairly casual feel to it, with marble tables with no table cloths in sight. The forward part of the dining room has full view of the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs working like a well-oiled machine.
Chef Lee Westcott was a former protege of Jason Atherton having overseen his two Hong Kong – 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry. It is with Atherton’s backing that he has opened Typing Room. Prior to that Westcott had stints at Noma and Per Se, with the time spent at the former having a great influence in his cooking style.
The menu consists of a choice of a 5- and 7-course tasting menu as well as a 2- or 3-course menu for lunch. The tasting menus do share a couple of dishes (the chef’s signature dishes) but in general the menus are different. There is a wine pairing to go with each menu or you could just indulge in the wine list which has some very reasonable mark-ups for London. Alternatively you could opt for some cocktails brewed at the Peg & Patriot bar.
The meal begins with a series of snacks brought in quick succession. The first bite was a playful take on an onion bhaji. Unlike any onion bhaji that you may have come across, this one featured a cigar-like tuile with a dip of mango and yoghurt on the bottom. Surprisingly it tasted like an onion bhaji when all the components were eaten together. The spicing level was mild but all the different spices were prominent. This was followed by a crispy fish skin was topped with some smoked cod brandade had excellent texture – the cod skin avoiding any signs of sogginess and the smoked cod brandade and oyster emulsion adding a lovely body to make it very satisfying to eat. Next was a simple oyster leaf topped with turbot roe which combined the lovely herbaceous notes from the oyster leaf with salty roe. Finally, we finished with an absolute cracker of a pig’s head croquette paired with a smoked apple puree. The croquette had a crisp exterior and an unctuous, melt-in-the-mouth filling of slow cooked pig’s head.
After the succession of snacks, bread was finally served. A lovely loaf of IPA sourdough is served hot, fresh from the oven with an excellent crust and light fluffy interior. To go with the sourdough was a marmite butter topped with crispy pearl barley. Yes, MARMITE butter. I love marmite and butter on toast and the marmite butter had the perfect ratio of marmite to butter. The crispy pearl barley just made the whole thing absolutely more-ish. I would happily eat bread here every day if I could.
The first course proper was a salad of celeriac, pear and mushrooms. This was a pleasant start with the pear and celeriac having a natural affinity with one another. The mushrooms came both as pickled as well as raw shaved Paris mushrooms. To give the dish body, a little grated hazelnut helped to tie all the elements together.
Next was scallops and clementine – a dish which sang of the Christmas season (I visited the restaurant back in December). Raw marinated scallops was dressed with grated clementine zest with chestnuts adding another contrasting texture. To be honest, this was my least favourite item on the menu with the scallops somewhat lost amongst the other components which were themselves also sweet.
If the last course was disappointing, then Westcott’s signature yeasted cauliflower was a humdinger of a course. The humble (and boring) cauliflower showed up in various forms, my favourite of which was ones which were beautifully caramelised. The way the cauliflower florets were cooked gave them an inherent meatiness, not like eating a nice hunk of steak. At the bottom of the dish were grapes and rehydrated raisins as well as crispy, deep fried capers. The dish was finished off at the table with a tangy mint dressing which helped enliven all the flavours on the plate.
For the fish course, a sea trout was gently poached and served on a bed of kohlrabi tagliatelle. The dish was finished off on the table with a consommé of pear and cucumber which gave the dish a deft lightness. I absolutely loved how delicately the fish was cooked, giving it an excellent texture and retaining all its inherent flavour.
The final savoury course was a roe deer, served beautifully pink with a classical pairing with cabbage and a blackberry jus. It is interesting to note that in the other courses preceding the combination of flavours was unique or unusual (cauliflower/grapes, trout/pear) yet this is completely eschewed for one which completely tried and true. Not that classical combinations are a bad thing. In fact, what could have been a very boring dish was given a contemporary facelift.
After a little pre-dessert, there was a final sweet course. I was actually dreading the dish given it’s unusual ingredients – sheep’s yoghurt, apple and dill. The last time I had dill in my dessert, all I could think about is sweet gravlax. How wrong was I. This dish was another wow for me. The perfect balance between the yoghurt parfait and sweet dill granita was carefully judged. More importantly there were enough sweet elements on the plate (meringue shards, apples) to balance the inherent acidity on the plate.
Typing Room really impressed me. So much so I went back the following week to try their set lunch menu. The technique on display was very high and this was also matched by the food which was interesting, thought provoking but also delicious. I am amazed that this restaurant has not (yet) been awarded a Michelin star, given how there are many less deserving restaurants with one. Then again this is hardly surprising given how unpredictable Michelin are. Typing Room is truly a gem in East London where there is a lack of high end restaurants and the fact that getting a booking is so difficult suggests that the local residents greatly appreciate this fact.