It is no longer enough to visit an art gallery and just contemplate the paintings or the installations. More and more galleries are paying extra attention to their dining facilities, making them attractive places to eat. Which is probably what is required after a hard day’s gesturing and time spent furiously exclaiming: ‘But does the artist’s work capture the essence of now?’
The Whitechapel gallery is renowned for promoting the artwork of established artists such as Picasso, Rothko and Pollock. However, its produce remains true to the East End and the sorts of foods found there within, although you won’t find jellied eels on any future menus.
Newly recruited from the South Bank’s Delfina restaurant is Maria Elia who has put together a menu incorporating an eclectic take on seasonal British produce. Most welcome on a chilly winter night were the roasted chestnuts with porcini salt. Opened up like flowering bulbs, the hard shells were easily peeled away even with the inconvenience of thawing fingers and revealed a fruit of good texture and firmness.
The starter of pan fried scallops and honey roasted ham hock rillette with fennel marmalade (£7.50) was a fine start to the meal. The hock rillette went well with the scallops which were light as well as succulent with the strong notes of the fennel marmalade providing a strong accompaniment.
The main course of pan fried sea bass on a bed of chestnut pasta rags with a serving of cavolo nero (£16.50) was well thought through in its composition. The sea bass combined well with the cavolo nero although it was a little unsettled when combined with the nuttiness of the pasta.
Finishing everything off was a desert that should be on top of any person’s wish list for their final course. The Christmas spiced meringue with mulled figs in a chocolate red wine sauce (£5.50) was excellent in terms of its flavour and elegance. The pairing of the light meringue and the heavy figs was tremendous thanks to the richness and the potency of the red wine sauce. Overall, this was a very enjoyable meal, which was well constructed not only in terms of what it was serving but also in terms of how a restaurant can take cues from its immediate surroundings.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
Tel: 020 7522 7888
Tuesday–Saturday, 12am–2.30pm, 5.30pm–11pm (last food orders 9.30pm)
Sunday, 12am to 2.30pm