We reckon opening a restaurant at the Mailbox is a pretty sound business move right now. The hoo-haa about the place reopening in a new improved stylish guise has got to be a boost for the bars and eateries in the vicinity.
So we think the people behind the canal-side Vivaanta are onto something. We popped into the lively opening night for a cocktail or two, but had to leave before the main event – the food. Not ones to miss out we went back for dinner to sample the full experience. Firstly, the place is huge and decked out almost entirely in red and black with a hefty helping of bling in the form of elaborate lighting, large mirrors and bejewelled seating. Intimate booths ideal for cosy suppers run the length of the restaurant and we happily we nestled into one. We’d booked an unusually early table at 6.30pm, but there were already people tucking into cocktails at the bar, a couple clearly on a first date and a few tables of friends saying hello to the weekend. A steady stream of diners packed in while we ate resulting in a lively atmosphere and a happy vibe. Word’s most definitely out.
We got off to an amusing start as the waiter chucked a glass of water into my lap. He was very apologetic and we quickly moved tables. Dried off, all was well with the world again as I sipped a welcome mojito and the friend slurped a lychee and strawberry daiquiri. As well as the inventive a la carte menu there’s a dedicated seafood lisiting which is the head chef’s passion. It’s full of mouth-watering dishes that it seemed rude not to try, so we ordered the seafood pakoras to start as well as the whole quail from the a la carte menu. The spiced quail was beautifully presented and tasted just as good as it looked. The menu said it was boneless which it wasn’t, but don’t let that put you off. It was delicious and well worth tackling the carcass. The Nepalese seafood pakoras were delicate and perfectly cooked. Beware the orange chilli on the side of the plate though! My friend thought it was a fried onion and tucked in. It was pretty fiery and he’s a bit of a lightweight, so the effect was fairly dramatic. A glass of Petit Chenin Blanc Ken Forrester was called for to cool the palate – any excuse. While we’re on the subject, the wine list is a varied selection starting at £17 per bottle with many options served by the glass. I stuck with seafood and ordered a Goan style fish curry – whole monkfish tail cooked in olive oil with curry leaves, aubergine, plum tomatoes, an onion stock reduction and coconut milk. It was really good and presumably required a lot of skill to get right. It had just the right amount of heat for me. Not usually a big bread eater I mopped up the moreish sauce with an equally moreish fluffy naan.
The friend enjoyed butter chicken from the a la carte menu. Chicken breast had been braised in yoghurt, coriander and dry chillies then simmered in caramelised onion, garlic, tomato and butter and finished with cream and coconut milk. It was light, moist and seriously tasty. There were clean plates all round. By this point the place was lively and the Mailbox was looking stunning by night. Just as we were about to leave the manager offered to show us the private dining room. It’s a fantastic space either for a party or a business meeting – slick, modern, unfussy and, er… private. From the owners and the head chef who is also one of the owners too, to the waiting and bar staff, the people at Vivaanta are as impressive as the food. They’re almost obsessional about quality produce, perfect cooking and attention to detail and it shows. They’ve picked a great space in a perfect location which looks set to be a winner.