What's the draw
Being housed in a 109-year-old building, the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green is full of history. But recent years have been kind to it, too: Da Terra, a tasting-menu-only restaurant that exquisitely blends the native Italian and Brazilian cuisines of its founders Rafael Cagalli and Paulo Airaudo, follows Lee Westcott's excellent Typing Room and Nuno Mendes's acclaimed Viajante as the latest restaurant to take residence here. The dining room has benefited from a little retouching, while keeping the open kitchen, and early signs – among them its winning of a Michelin star only a few months after its quiet opening in February – suggest that Da Terra continues the hotel's tradition of providing some of the best and most thought-provoking food in East London.
What to drink
If you opt for paired drinks, as we did, you may start off with a Malibran Credamora Col Fondo Prosecco 2016 which, despite not being a traditional-method sparkling, shares more in common with a good cava or champagne than mass-market prosecco – dry, with toasty notes and richness to add to its fruit. Later, an albariño from La Marimorena in Rías Baixas has rockpool salinity on the nose, with apricot and nectarine on the palate and a little sharpness. An excellent Rosso di Montalcino from Terralsole was a great choice further down the menu, as was a Clos Lapeyre Jurançon, all passionfruit and tinned peaches, to finish. There are some interesting additions away from wine, too: especially a 30-year-aged Apostoles Palo Cortado sherry from Gonzalez Byass, and even a Toast lager with the bread course.
What to eat
Having worked under chefs including Quique Dacosta, Heston Blumenthal, and Simon Rogan, it's probably no surprise that Cagali and Airaudo imbue a fusion concept with poise, balance and seemingly effortless delivery. Dishes are frenetic, form-shifting and eclectic, and although most of the menu seems Italian in spirit, Chinese, Brazilian and Japanese influences make themselves known in sauces and garnishes. Isle of Mull scallop tartare comes cloistered in the shape of a rose with koji dressing and apple marigold granita, while a symphony of datterini tomato hearts, slightly dried, come with an even more umami-rich consommé and the generous lardo of speck ham. Confit chicken wing and skin with pickled onion, onion jus and cured egg yolk delivers more gorgeous umami and richness, while chicken liver parfait is whipped and served Arpège-style in an eggshell with onion brioche. A bread course is outrageous, quarters of warm sourdough with a hunk of bone marrow, cultured butter, peppery, grassy olive oil and cultured butter with espelette pepper.
Dessert – a soft banana purée with Ron Zacapa ice cream – benefits from the unlikely addition of caviar
Down the menu, cod is poached in chicken fat, served with cabbage and a light bagna cauda; and there's a take on Airaudo's native fejuada stew, where pork belly is served with black bean purée, corn, banana, bacon and onion. This is a modern restaurant, unafraid to be out-there with flavours and textures: the cheese course – English goat's cheese with guava paste – is on the edge of a dessert, and the true dessert – a soft banana purée with Ron Zacapa ice cream – benefits from a sluicy, saline punch with the unlikely addition of caviar. It really works, as does pretty much everything on this exhilarating tasting menu, worthy of all the accolades it's receiving and then some.
Set menus start from £60. Town Hall Hotel, 8 Patriot Square, E2 9NF; daterra.co.uk