Nuno Mendes x Massimo Bottura

The Revered Chefs Mark the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award at London’s Town Hall Hotel

Photographer Nick Ballon headed to East London’s Town Hall Hotel to capture the collaboration between Viajante’s head chef Nuno Mendes and Osteria Francescana’s Massimo Bottura in celebration of this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award. For his one-off bespoke extravaganza, the Portuguese Mendes partnered up with three-Michelin-starred Italian chef Bottura to create a lavish, eight-course set menu drawing gastronomic inspiration from their childhoods. Highlights included Mendes’s “açorda de lagosta” (bread porridge with confit egg yolk and cured lobster) and Bottura’s almond granite with capers and Lavazza coffee. “We fused Massimo’s Italian roots with my Portuguese heritage,” says Mendes, who previously worked the kitchens of New York’s Jean Georges and the five-time Best Restaurant winner El Bulli. For the Town Hall Hotel three-night food lab, he also created unique menus with Spain’s Quique Dacosta and the Italo-Argentinean Mauro Colagreco, while Sweden’s Mathias Dahlgren contributed a supper club in the hotel's expansive De Montfort Suite. Adds Bottura: “It is a great occasion for people who live in different continents to get together and share some time and a meal.” NOWNESS stole a few minutes with the busy chefs between their kitchen antics and kick-backs in bed to talk about their restaurant loves and hates.

What's been your best restaurant experience?
I have to say the very first time I visited Noma. I went for lunch and everything about it was incredible. It was an outstanding experience and I still remember every dish.
Bottura: My first. When I was 14 I went to a little trattoria in the countryside. The place was called Cantarelli after the name of the owner—Peppino Cantarelli. The place and menu were quite simple, but even back then Cantarelli was talking about the value of territory and preserving traditions like the production of [the cured meat] culatello.

Any hidden gem restaurants?
Mendes: I often go to Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch. We’re lucky here in east London as it’s a creative neighborhood with hidden gems everywhere.
Bottura: Elkano, Getaria in Spain. Absolutely the most amazing grilled rombo [brill] I have ever eaten in my life. After that meal, I decided to never serve rombo in my restaurant again. Also, Mirasole in San Giovanni di Persiceto, Bologna, Italy. Chef Franco grills in the middle of the tiny dining room. I drive through fog and rain to get here on a Sunday night with my wife for a beautiful bottle and wholesome, tasty, honest food.

Most outlandish dish you've ever been served?
Mendes: I once ate codfish sperm in Singapore—which was interesting!
Bottura: Offal eaten in a parking lot under the highway in Bangkok with the kitchen crew of The Sukothai Hotel restaurant. There were elephants walking by at midnight, honking cars and motorbikes, and an old woman on the sidewalk who you paid for the food.

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