What's the draw
Move over, Jack the Ripper – there's a new headline-maker in Whitechapel. Namely The Whitechapel Gallery, which is known for its early support for the likes of Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock, and has added to its roster of contemporary exhibitions and film screenings with the equally contemporary restaurant Townsend, headed up by Nick Gilkinson (ex-Garden Café and Anglo) and head chef Joe Fox (ex-Petersham and HIX). Here, in a wood-panelled room, the pair have created a modern British dining room serving up dishes that have garnered acclaim on Instagram – the Mayan gold potatoes topped with egg yolk and black truffle being one of them (more on which later) – and IRL. All in all, it's an absolute winner for City-based finance-types who have a penchant for hipster food and drink. Or anyone who likes good food, really.
What to drink
There's a tasting menu with optional drinks pairings, so should you be so inclined you know what to do. But if you're taking your meal and your drinks into your own hands, there's an excellent list of European wines to choose from. We opted for the 2017 Yarlington Mull cider from Oliver's in Herefordshire as an aperitif – a palate-opening sip with body and elegance to rival your more customary sparkling wine to start – a special-occasion cider, if you will. From there, we went for Perfum, a, er, perfumed white blend of moscatel, macabeo and parellada from just outside Barcelona. Despite a surprisingly pale hue, the wine was packed with musky, apple-y notes that warranted a second glass. A special shout-out goes to the dessert wine, a 2011 riesling from Mosel winemaker Philipp Veser – so drinkable it was dangerous, balancing peach fruit aromas with bright acidity.
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What to eat
Whenever we see croquettes or savoury scones on the menu we have to order them, and Townsend was no exception. Devon blue croquettes with house-made fermented chilli sauce (which you can buy to take home, if it isn't sold out) had all the spice, smoke and salt to reach every corner of your palate; and the bacon scone, topped with a slick of cream cheese and a generous wedge of smoked eel made for an incredibly moreish mouthful, too. As for larger plates, potato dumplings (aka gnocchi) were sprinkled with potted brown shrimp and coastal herbs; curried veal sweetbreads came with roasted grapes and shaved raw chestnut – both delicious, both must-orders. Then came the Mayan gold potato: all the textures were there (dense potato, runny yolk, crispy sage leaves) and it certainly looked good enough to eat, but it didn't quite live up to the hype (sorry Instagram). Everything else, though, was undeniably brilliant, including a nutty treacle tart with a scoop of clotted cream ice cream. At four courses for £25 (and an extra £20 for paired wines), we'll most certainly be back. And if not in the restaurant, with one of the 'Town-send' recipe boxes – a snip at a set menu for two with a bottle of wine for £40. Yes, please.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX; townsendrestaurant.co.uk