… Unless, of course, it’s here at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. Walking into the Corner Room was something of a surreal experience. Admittedly, we walked through the hotel’s lobby rather than the more direct entrance on the other side of the building – but what can we say? We were hungry and this was the first sign of the hotel (and, with it, dinner) so we sauntered in. We didn’t encounter another soul on our walk, but the sound of our footsteps and some soft jazz that seemed to come from a far off gramophone in another time eerily kept us company. The small sign at the top of the stairs soon pointed us in the right direction, however – past a carpeted moose head.
The décor is all high ceilings, white tiles, eccentric lighting and large windows. And it is, incidentally, a small corner room. The tables (and the table settings) are set at an angle and close together, which, especially considering the illumination from the aforementioned sources, meant that dinner didn’t feel like much of a private affair. Although when the nights start to get darker and the flicker of candles take centre-stage, it would, perhaps feel more intimate. But there’s always the tiny, winding staircase off to one side that winds its way up to a miniature door, if you’re desperate for an Alice in Wonderland-esque escape route.
The chic, simple, brown paper menu belied its offerings – the dishes on it seemed crammed full of ingredients. When our meal arrived, our first bite confirmed this. There were so many tastes and flavours. The basil, strawberry and mozzarella salad was served slightly warm, which was surprising but seemed to work well – really fusing the dish together with what would have otherwise been quite disparate elements. And the meat for the main course was cooked to perfection. The pork with Iberian bread pudding was delicious.
It seemed, at times though, that there were more flavours than there was food on the plate. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. One perfect mouthful somewhere wonderful always outweighs the general chaff one can usually guzzle at lesser restaurants. But sometimes, it didn’t come across like that. The icy granita, for example, often weakened, rather than enhanced, the taste and integrity of a dish. At times, it paid off – the caramelised goat’s cheese and blueberry dessert is not something you’d find on every menu, and it was something we’re glad we tried. It was certainly the first time we’d tried clover, though why they were scattered on the plate was unclear. Unfortunately none of them had four leaves.
The restaurant was constantly busy, which is a testament to the Corner Room’s appeal, or intrigue. Sitting out in Bethnal Green, this restaurant doesn’t take bookings, you just turn up and hope for the best. There’s an element of surprise to dining here, before you’ve even taken your seat.
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