Typing Room in Bethnal Green: Lee Westcott’s restaurant is one of London’s best
The Bermuda Triangle mystery turned out to be the result of a number of false claims and the adverse weather from the Gulf Stream; crop circles a series of hoaxes; and the Loch Ness monster a case of wishful thinking. No one, however, has been able to figure out why Typing Room doesn’t have a michelin star yet.
Lee Westcott was one of the enfant prodige of the New British cuisine; he worked with some of the world’s most prominent chefs – René Redzepi, Jason Atherton and Gordon Ramsay – and run the kitchen of two-michelin-starred Tom Aikens in Chelsea for two years aged 24. It was Atherton who helped him set up his solo restaurant at the luxury Town Hall Hotel in East London, the former site of Nuno Mendes’s Viajante.
The five-course tasting menu costs £65 and it’s spectacular. There are snacks to start with: the Crispy Cod Skin with dill emulsion, oyster and paprika; the Pig Cheeks with apple purée and mushroom powder; and their IPA sourdough bread loaf with marmite butter and pearl barley. They are all delicious and served with perfect timing that makes you forget the wait for the first dish. We also have a chat with head sommelier Fred Marti (ex Atherton too), a Frenchman with unmistakable passion for all things Japanese. It’s clear he knows what he’s doing – which sadly isn’t very common – and I trust him with the pairings for the entire meal. He comes back with a refreshing, unfiltered glass of Sugihara sake – one of the smallest breweries in Japan, from the Gifu prefecture.
The opening course is the Trout, Horseradish, Gooseberry and Tomato; it has all the freshness and punch of the herbal elements, and the Japanese fermented rice wine is a wise pairing for the cured fish. It continues with Westcott’s signature dish, Yeasted Cauliflower, Raisins, Capers and Mint, which could also be renamed Ode to Cauliflower. The white vegetable is presented in four different styles and textures: the golden crispy slices on top; the pan-seared fondants; the little, blanched florets; and the yeasted purée at the bottom. Raisins, capers and mint add complexity and a fresh touch to the overall flavour.
A Cod, Peas, Girolles and Lemon Verbena looks stunning and makes for a nice, simpler transitory serving – in fact, every good chef should remember the value of simplicity. The highlight of the meal is the final main: Aylesbury Duck, Carrot and Chicory. Although little, the bird’s meat is quite frankly divine. It’s also the second time a chef stresses (the other one being the Kitchen Table’s James Knappett) the entire duck is cooked exclusively in a pan.
Catching up with the pairings, we have a great zibibbo by Serragghia, from Pantelleria (a favourite of high-profile sommeliers such as Giuseppe Palmieri of Osteria Francescana); a fantastic chenin blanc from Loire by Jean-Pierre Robinot, which boasts remarkable character and a surprisingly long finish; and, for the duck, Marti brings something very special: a glass of Unico 2008 by Vega-Sicilia from Ribera del Duero, a very sophisticated tempranillo – elegant, light, sharp and spicy.
The tasting menu ends with Sheep’s Yoghurt, Apple and Dill, one of the most delicious fresh desserts I’ve had in a long time. As I enjoy the pudding, there are two glasses of sweet wine I can play with: a Domaine de Souch Jurançon Moelleux Cuvée Marie Kattalin 2004 – similar to a sauternes although different in grape variety – and a yuzu sake.
Typing Room is one of London’s best modern British restaurants: from the food to the service, from the design to the wine, everything aims at – and reaches – excellence. When you book your table, ask to be seated in the front room, as you will witness chef Lee Westcott working on the pass with exemplary passion and focus. And if you want to prolong your night out, there’s the cocktail bar Peg + Patriot next door mixing exceptional drinks.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina