Corner Room Restaurant, Bethnal Green

Never has a vegetarian option on a menu been so undersold.

After successfully navigating the way through the Town Hall hotel to get to the restaurant (along with several other disorientated would-be diners) and been told the wait for a table for 4 would be at least an hour – its a no booking policy at the Corner Room – I was dismayed to see the vegetarian option on the menu as just ‘our carrots and cauliflower’. It didn’t even have a capital letter, like the meat or fish options! I checked with the friendly maitre d’ and was assured it was something special. Boy was she right.

The hour wait was more than happily passed in the Viajante Bar at the front of the hotel/town hall (believe me, you’ll be more than merrily confused after a visit) where the cocktails, although not cheap, are imaginative and well prepared. I tried a whiskey in a jam jar concoction, then a less-adventurous but perfectly mixed mint julep. By the time we received a call that our table was ready, we’d almost forgotten that we’d come to eat.

viajante bar bethnal green

The Corner Room is tiny and unassuming, but packed with interesting and carefully constructed details – from the huge studio lamps hung in the ceiling to the twisting staircase leading to a tiny and mysterious door near the ceiling. We chose a house red wine at £22 (the cheapest option) which was delicious after they changed the first corked bottle without a fuss at all.

As a veggie, it helps if you like you cheese at the Corner Room. The two veggie starters were cheese based – one a half round of french cheese, the other a mozzerella-based salad (around £8 each). The real treat though was those carrots and cauliflower we’d been promised. The carrots were caramelised and came on top of the cauli puree, with delicate slithers of red peppers. Amazing value for a tenner. I hadn’t come across chef Nuno Mendes’ cooking before, but after a few mouthfuls I wanted to marry the man.

The deserts were equally adventurous. Our table sampled the lot (about £5 each, or £10 for the cheese platter) – from a goats cheese mouse and fruit sorbet dish, to a chocolate and fudge ensemble. The only disappointment was that we were told we could have coffee back in the viajante bar, but when we got there it was already off. We consoled ourselves with a digestive cocktail – what a good excuse.

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