Rafael Cagali’s Town Hall restaurant is a sophisticated, intimate dining experience that belies its location on a busy east London road
When Rafael Cagali took the fine dining space in east London’s Town Hall Hotel he had some big shoes to fill, the intimate dining space having previously been home firstly to Nuno Mendes’ Michelin-starred Viajante and then Lee Westcott’s also highly-acclaimed The Typing Room. The hotel has had links with high-end gastronomy since opening and there was a feeling that its owners were looking for even greater things with its next signing.
The Brazilian chef has not disappointed. Having opened Da Terra in January 2019 the restaurant gained its first Michelin star just eight months later before going on to win its second in the 2021 guide. None of this should have been particularly surprising: Cagali’s CV includes times in the kitchens with Spanish chef luminaries Quique Dacosta and Martin Berasategui before working at The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal and then helping Simon Rogan open Fera at Claridges. With chef Paulo Airaudo by his side, who has worked at Arzak and The Fat Duck before opening Amelia in San Sebastian, which won a Michelin star after only six months, they make a formidable pair.
Da Terra’s modern European menu combines the flavours of Cagali’s Brazilian and Italian roots with flair and humour (a figurine of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Rafael makes an appearance). Dishes on the two tasting menus (seven or 10-courses with a five-course lunch menu also available) are perfunctorily described by their three main ingredients but deliver much more – a chicken dish comprises separate components such as a crispy foot with egg, and wing heart and liver with onion and truffle, while bread comes as a standalone course served with bone marrow and a trio of butters.