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The Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room

June 20, 2011

You’ve probably read in various media how the latest restaurants seem to be serving small dishes/plates style meals (e.g. Pollen Street Social, Riding House Cafe). That’s all good, but sometimes don’t you just want to walk into a restaurant to be greeted by a simple menu with a list of starters, mains and desserts? I mean, life is complicated enough without having to be told you could either eat your dinner this way, that way or a combination of all the aforementioned ways! That’s exactly what we got when on a spur of the moment, we decided to have a late lunch at the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room (although looking at the online menu again now, starters are called small plates, mains are called bigger plates…!).

The Whitechapel Gallery was reopened in April 2009 after a major redesign and expansion. The 40-seat Dining Room was initially helmed by Maria Elia but somewhere along the way, I heard that it came under the care of Angela Hartnett with Diego Cardoso as head chef. When we visited the York and Albany a couple of years ago, Angela Hartnett was the executive chef and I remember being very impressed with how the simplicity of the menu did not compromise the delivery of well-cooked food packed with flavour.

The Dining Room’s website indicates there is a daily changing menu with the emphasis on homely cooking using the very best British ingredients. Prices are reasonable – side orders were £3.50 each, desserts £4.50, small plates from £4.50 – £8 and bigger plates around £11 with the exception of the cote de boeuf for two at £34.

K and I shared deep fried whitebait with aioli from the small plates section. The batter is different from what I’ve normally had – different, not worse. A different type of flour perhaps? The aioli was subtle. The haddock and watercress fishcake which was well seasoned and had chunky cubed potatoes, was served with saffron mayonnaise. My dish of spaghetti puttanesca (did you know that spaghetti puttanesca literally means ‘whore’s style spaghetti’?!) appeared slightly overcooked when it arrived but on first bite proved to be spot on al dente. Again, subtle flavours but that in itself is difficult to achieve with potentially over-salty anchovies.

There’s not much of a view out of the restaurant window (the busy Whitechapel High Street), I imagine the room itself could get a bit claustrophobic with a full house but the service was smooth and personal on our visit; and the food simple with well-balanced flavours. Definitely an option for when we’re around the area again.

Price for plates as above with a bottle of Meantime Pale Ale beer and a glass of Rose wine, together with service charge came to £47.31.

The Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room is located at 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX which is about 3 minutes walk from Aldgate East station. Also just about 5 minutes from Brick Lane.

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