Taberna do Mercado — London, UK
Nuno Mendes has had a busy few years, first leaving his Michelin-starred perch at the wildly successful Viajante to head up the restaurant at celeb haunt Chiltern Firehouse and now, opening Taberna do Mercado. The Portuguese architects Joao Guedes Ramos and Carise Faria have lined the cosy diner in a corner of Spitalfields Market with marble tabletops, cement top bar with Portuguese cork panels, and Rabo de Bacalhau and Goncalo chairs. If it’s not already clear, this is the setting for Mendes’s long-awaited return to his Portuguese culinary roots. And what a treat it all is. Very wisely, Mendes and head chef Antonio Galapito have steered clear from the precious tweezer food and funky modern plates of Viajante and Chiltern Firehouse. Instead, the MO here is an update of Portuguese classics seen to best effect in the sweetly coloured desserts that are rarely found outside of special occasions or a mother’s kitchen. The small dishes of meats, vegetables and seafood are compact with the flavours of herbs, light spices and grassy olive oil notes. Cockles are anointed with nothing more than garlic and oil; fragrant pork belly with tomato oil, paleta and orange; and creamy pigs trotters that yield to the gentlest pressure of the fork. With very little fanfare, Taberna may well mark the start of London’s next food sensation.