A few strides from Brick Lane, Whitechapel Gallery Dining rustles up some eye catching dishes, but overall our experience was rather hit and miss.In April 2009, the newly extended Whitechapel Gallery opened it’s doors to the public. The ambitious £13m expansion project saw the Whitechapel gallery double in size. The adjoining library was acquired, allowing the gallery to increase it’s exhibition space and showcase a new restaurant.
The classic styled room has a brasserie feel to it. Despite the restaurant’s diminuitive size, it is not particularly atmospheric and makes me reminisce of dreary school assemblies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not partial to exposed piping, but the whole space felt artificially light and tiresomely functional. I do however like how they’ve incorporated the elegant card index shelves at the back of the room, which I later discover were a memento salvaged from the old library. In comparison, Morgan M, which also has a classic interior design with tinges of green, is far more fetching.
I began to wonder if the lack of adornment was deliberate, as both our starters were beautifully presented and practically art forms in themselves. The roasted Crown Prince velouté with parmesan popcorn and micro basil was just a fancy name for pumpkin soup. The presentation was sharp, however the popcorn and the baby basil did come across as a bit gimicky. The soup however was pleasant and smooth on the tongue but could have done with a hint of seasoning like black pepper, nutmeg or even some chilli oil. The tuna tartare also looked ravishing. It was perfectly cooked with the middle still slightly pink, but the coarse pepper coating was a little overpowering and the accompanying anchovy and radish felt disjointed from the tuna. The rather nondescript tomato essence did not help to bind the flavours together.
Next course was the pan fried sea trout and the presentation of this number was also admirable. The trout was tremendous. The skin was fork tappingly crisp, and the flesh was wonderfully seasoned and succulent. The trout had been layed on a bed of crunchy sweet corn and broadbeans, surrounded by some perfectly baked potatoes, which had wonderfully thick sweet browned skins. The second main course was the twice baked courgette soufflé, with cashel blue cheese and courgette quinelles. The vegetarian course was also serious eye candy, but it did not do half as well in the taste department. The foamy head of the souffle looked like a very frothy capuccino, especially as it was served in a coffee cup. The souffle was well seasoned, nice and gooey in the middle, and not too eggy. The quinelles on the other hand were not so appetizing. The courgette and blue cheese combination was no match made in heaven and frankly it was quite bland.
We still had a smidgen of room left, so decided to share the “deconstructed” black forest gateau, which ended up being a great call. A gentle tap on the chocolate fondant was all that was needed for it’s dark liquid chocolate centre to gush out. The vanilla ice cream and luscious kirsch marinated cherries heightened the experience. The final component was a scrumptious slab of chocolate ganache. I had to eat this slowly with my eyes closed because I didn’t want any other distractions!
The price per person was £38 including a glass of wine and tip. I’m still having dreams about that dessert, it looked and tasted fabulous. The sea trout was also a winner and the other dishes were ok, so if I was in the area, I would consider giving it another try.
www.whitechapelgallery.org/dine, Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. 020 7522 7888