Thrilling modern European food with Asian touches in an up-close counter setting
Claim to fame: The TĀTĀ chefs worked with Nuno Mendes at Viajante, while Tayer co-owner Alex Kratena helped win “world’s best bar” four times at Artesian
Reason to go: The food combines high-minded experimentalism with downright deliciousness and does so consistently
To look out for: The carefully considered drinks pairing, majoring on cocktails but also including wine and beer
The setting may seem unlikely, but some the most exciting restaurant food in London right now is being served out of a tiny kitchen within a low-lit cocktail bar, to a counter of just four diners.
TĀTĀ Eatery, the creation of Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves, first incarnated as a street-food stall in 2016 and then became a roving pop-up, gathering acclaim for its “East meets West” cuisine, which reflected the couple’s Chinese and Portuguese heritage. For this new, permanent venture in Shoreditch (TĀTĀ also serves bar food at Tayer + Elementary), Meng and Gonçalves are distancing themselves from the East/West label, focusing more squarely on elevated European cuisine, though touches of Asian influence clearly remain.
The five-course set menu, served three times a night from Wednesday to Saturday, evolves on a daily basis. In late August, it began with an extraordinary dish of chopped razor clams in a soup of fermented almond milk with a lobster head bisque––a superbly controlled salvo of flavors. This was followed by a scallop and beef tartare with diced green apple and mizuna leaves.
Integral to the menu is the fact that key ingredients are deployed in various ways throughout the meal, and across services; the beef reappears in the form of tallow, used to cook potatoes for a dish of “fish and chips”. (The fish element comes from smoked eel and a sauce made with fish stock and garlic oil.) The result is exceptionally moreish, a rough-and-ready pleasure prepared with serious finesse.
A plate of Iberico pork with beetroot, Japanese spring onions and mushroom dashi brings the savory courses to a satisfying, umami-rich end, while the meal itself rounds up with milk ice cream and sea buckthorn caramel. Unusual elements such as aronia berry and Peruvian marigold accessorise this final course, but the most interesting component is the crunchy texture provided by puffed rice embedded within the ice cream.
Diners may be divided on TĀTĀ’s new home, behind the cordon of an exclusive cocktail bar, with banging hip hop on the sound system and post-work drinkers filing past. Add to that the relatively high price of eating here, £60 for the menu and another £60 for the optional drinks pairing is not exactly cheap. But there’s no denying the skill and creativity on show in the kitchen, or the thrill of experiencing a run of near-faultless dishes from two of London’s most talented chefs, with a mere wooden counter dividing you from the action.