While Whitechapel may conjure images of Jack the Ripper stalking the streets in search of his next victim, the E1 area of London is fast becoming a destination for culture vultures and foodies alike. Combining the two is the Whitechapel Gallery, which houses a range of contemporary and 20th-century art in an unimposing building next to Aldgate East Tube. But it’s not just artworks that Londoners are flocking for; now open inside is the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, manned by none other than culinary superstar Angela Hartnett.
It is here within a boxy, wood-panelled room that Angela consults on the food, and head chef Diego Cardoso and his team whip up a menu of bite-sized British fare. The menu is divided into small plates and big plates, and it’s all a bit confusing as to what you’re supposed to do. According to the waiter on the night of our review, it’s best to order a selection and share – which is exactly what we did. Not wanting to waste any time, we ordered some nibbles while we navigated the menu; sourdough with planta olive oil and whipped goats’ curd with roasted garlic, both of which hit the spot. After much deliberation – the menu here is small, but a nightmare for the indecisive – we opted for three small plates to start with; ham hock, salad of green beans capers and shallots – hearty, heavy and wholesome – deep fried whitebait with aioli – light, crispy and zesty – and sweet potato, fennel and chorizo salad, which was sufficiently creamy and utterly delightful. For mains, we chose bigger plates of seam bream, pimento and red pepper – a little bland, but filling – and rump of lamb, Nicoise salad and basil juice, definitely the better of the two and served perfectly pink. The accompanying truffle chips were, admittedly, better than Jamie Oliver’s (which is saying something) and are delicious enough to lure even the strictest dieter from their calorie-counting regime. While the drinks menu isn’t enormous, it proves once and for all that size isn’t everything with a nice selection of good-value-for-money wines and Champagnes. The cheapest white is marked-up at just £13.95, while the cheapest red is the same. But on such a delightful, summery day, it seemed a sin not to indulge in a couple of crisp G&Ts instead.
While we wouldn’t necessarily opt to dine at the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room for dinner – the room is a little too small and lacks buzz, if we’re honest – we would come here for a languid lunch. And of course, Hartnett’s fare is worth travelling the world for, let alone East – even for the Sloaniest Pony out West.
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