As Julie Andrews memorably once said, ‘ When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window’. I discovered the truth of this during the last Tube strike. Forced to stay within walking distance of home, I had to fall back on local resources to liven up an otherwise dull Monday night. And that’s when I remembered the close proximity of Viajante to LCG’s humble abode.
The above paragraph represents a double first. It was the first time I’d visited the bar at Viajante, which I really can’t believe – staggeringly overdue. It was also the first time I’ve started a post with a quote from the Sound of Music, which I can well believe and promise never to repeat again. However, I don’t propose to similarly forego repeating my visit to Viajante.
The reason for that is that I’ve already been back twice it was so good. Housed in a building with a beautiful exterior, it used to be Bethnal Green’s town hall. The entrance doors and some slightly cheap woodwork and flooring betray its origins but I found these municipal touches quite endearing. The bar itself is stylish without being sumptuous and just a bit urban – most appropriate given its neighbourhood to Shoreditch.
The drinks menu, which includes some excellent wine choice apparently, is very attentive to the classics, featuring recently revived drinks such as the Hanky Panky and the Last Word. I was happy to see it was long enough to offer a decent variety but eschewed the ‘essays’ on provenance that are tediously cluttering menus across London right now.
We started with a Negroni (gin, Campari, sweet vermouth) and a Martini (gin, Vermouth, twist), a classic duo that gives a good base comparison to other bars. Apart from their somewhat slow appearance at our table, these were superbly made though I found the Negroni quite light (not necessarily bad) and wondered what vermouth was used.
Subsequent choices included an Airmail (Chairman’s rum, honey, lime, champagne), Broadmoor (Monkey shoulder, sugar, orange bitters, flaming Chartreuse) and Martinez (Bols Genever, sweet vermouth, orange, Maraschino , bitters), VV’s Margarita (mescal, lime, agave, Cointreau). All of which were excellent but the two stand outs were the satisfyingly complex Broadmoor and the Margarita, whose smokey long finish made it to my mind a perfect drink (though my judgement might be slightly influenced by a rapidly growing mescal obsession…).
Bar snacks are, as you’d expect from a Nuno Mendes run operation, generally excellent and service was polished yet warm. One small caveat: my most recent visit was overwhelmed by Christmas party diners who not only made the atmosphere more raucous than usual but seemed to be stressing the waiting staff. Under the circumstances, and with a pinch of Christmas spirit, I can overlook the slow service and lack of smiles.
On an ordinary night, given that it acts as a pre-dinner meeting point for diners at the rather grown-up restaurant, the crowd is correspondingly grown-up too but there’s just enough edge to attract a fair share of young creatives. For me the mix works well and keeps it from being too dull or too cliquey. Combining good service, welcoming ambience and top-notch drinks, I think I’ve just found the perfect local.
I guess that means I should thank the London Underground for opposing Bob Crow and the RMT? Oh well, that’s just another first…..
Service: 9/10 (ignoring the 5/10 blip)