Above an unassuming Shoreditch shop front, in a corner of the newly opened Blue Mountain School – an interdisciplinary tapestry of design stores, spaces and archives – chef Nuno Mendes and Hostem co-founder James Brown’s new jaunt, Mãos is setting tongues wagging and palates alive.
Animated by scent, colour and a bustle of chefs, the 16-seat restaurant is more bijou artists’ studio than traditional restaurant cookhouse, walled with flowers, planted beds and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Opening bites like wild turbot with seaweed sofrito and magnolia leaf are sampled in the heat of the kitchen before meandering into the the cooling, earthy oasis of the dining room, punctuated by a single, bespoke table designed by 6a Architects, and a Barra D’oro light designed by Peter Zumthor (2003) and manufactured by Viabizzuno. Everything, even down to the stainless steel window dressings, has been created for the space.
London-based 6a Architects have opted for plenty of glass between kitchen and dining room, so as to promote a genuine connection between chef and guest. A show-stopping, suspended central staircase, also surrounded by a wall of glass, leads to the rest of the concept space, including a gallery that hosts rotating exhibitions, and a wisteria-heady roof terrace with views across east London rooftops.
The team at Mãos – led by Mendes and head chef Edoardo Pellicano (previously of Portland restaurant and Viajante) – has adapted a traditional 14-course tasting menu into a progressive and off-road trek through regions and cultures cultures, with an emphasis on Portuguese and Japanese cuisine. Designed around ‘promoting connection and conviviality’, the printed menu isn’t revealed until the end of the night, facilitating discussion, intrigue and conversation, that coaxes diners out of their shell, during the three-hour long dinner.
Lubricated by the choice of wines from the dedicated wine room, Brown, whose mission was to bring a community experience back to the dining room table, says: ‘I think we’ve achieved that. Conversation never stalls – we’ve even had groups who connect, and remain friends long after they’ve left.’§