Underground restaurants and supper clubs are all the rage, but few have made such a fuss as The Loft Project. It garnered coverage back in April last year when it opened as the “trial restaurant” for chef Nuno Mendes who was looking to perfect his menu for an upcoming restaurant launch. At £100 a head, it certainly wasn’t the bargain dining that other underground restaurants offered. Nuno has now opened his restaurant, Viajante, in Bethnal Green town hall and become a big player on the London food scene.
The Loft has not been converted into storage, though. The tucked away Kingsland Road apartment has taken on a life of its own. Managed by Nuno’s partner Clarise, it now plays host to guest chefs from around the world allowing them to showcase their food to a select group of Londoners.
We visited during the residency of Mauro Colagreco, chef proprietor of Michelin-starred Mirazur in Italy just 30m from the French / Italian border. A ten course journey took us via oysters with pear jelly; razor clams with parsnip cream and coffee emulsion; a quinoa risotto with wild mushrooms; and a dessert of candied pumpkin in ash, sheep’s milk mousse and honey ice-cream. Whilst it would be tempting to rave about the risotto that resembled a walk through the woods in autumn, or the unbeknownst affinity that parsnip has for coffee, given that Mauro has now packed up and gone home, what we’re really into is The Loft Project as a concept.
Each evening is limited to only sixteen diners, all seated around one long table and encouraged to walk into the small, open-plan kitchen where the chef of the night is cooking. It’s a chance to ask questions, learn techniques and get to know the chef as well as gorge on their food.
Upcoming chefs include Vitor Claro of Michelin-starred Hotel Albatroz in Portugal and a Spanish chef from closer to home, José Pizarro, who now runs Tapas Brindisa at Borough Market. Tickets aren’t cheap, at around £100-£120 per person, but this includes plenty of wine to accompany the food and the evening is as much of an experience as it is a meal. Alternatively, sign up to the mailing list on the website and await a last-minute cancellation for a bit of a bargain.