The recently refurbished Whitechapel Gallery now has something else to offer culture vultures. Its recently opened dining room is a smart little affair designed to satisfy both food and art lovers. As expected the venue`s aesthetics are superb; nestling in the gallery`s old library the mirror paneled restaurant is all smooth lines and pale wood – rather accurately described by one visitor as `Scandinavian chic` . They`ve also cleverly employed the services of Maria Ella as Head Chef. Her former home was South Banks highly respected Delfina and she is no stranger in understanding what might appeal to a hip London crowd. Whilst the dishes focus on fresh British ingredients there are definite Mediterranean influences: Middle Eastern chickpeas, pistachio and baklava can be enjoyed as well as traditional jersey royals or `golden beets`.
After a welcome glass of fizz and taster of their delicious cauliflower soup my friend and I examined the starters. Never ones to turn down the seafood option we decided on the pan-fried scallops teamed with date and black pudding, all dressed in a roast apple puree. Beautifully presented on long white plates this dish was quite brilliant and definitely a favourite part of the meal, its sweet and salty combination really hit the spot!
I followed this with the pan-fried sea bass on a bed of garden peas topped with squid and spiced with chilli. The bass was cooked to perfection and certainly not spoilt by fussy ingredients. My friend however opted for a very generous helping of pork belly sprinkled with shaved fennel and accompanied by a watercress salad. Through slow roasting the meat Maria kept its flavour robust and the texture tender, but be warned – this is definitely an option for those with a hearty appetite.
We then made a brave attempt to get through puddings on our (by now) full stomachs. The wonderful artisan bread that kept appearing throughout the meal didn`t help in accomadating space for a sweet treat. One desert to share is advisable as the pudding portions are very generous and both our choices were quite rich. The chocolate, lemongrass and ginger tart was dark and unfortunately too intense for my taste. Similarly my friends attempt to pick the lighter choice of meringue and strawberries didn`t really work – virtuous it was not!
Fantastic service, wonderful food and an excellent wine list should be enough to guarantee this new venture a success. Its just leaves to be seen whether it`s ambition to be a foodie destination for local artists and residents matches their wallets. It`s perhaps too slick an operation for the boho set. I wish the Whitechapel dining room team great success – it really was a fantastic meal.
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