Saturday, 3 April 2010

A Visit to London’s Whitechapel Dining Rooms

Mr H. rang me up the other week and said, “I’ve just passed the Whitechapel Dining Rooms, and it looks pretty nice. Do you fancy testing it out at some point?”

“Urh, yes please” I replied. “The critics all raved about it when it opened last year and I’ve always wanted to try it.”

Whitechapel Dining Rooms, What’s The Deal?: This small, one-roomed restaurant is attached to the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Head chef Maria Elia has received endless praise for her seasonal food, which shows off the best of British produce through her unique flair and style.

Inside the art-deco inspired dining room seats no more than 40 diners under glowing cream-coloured hanging pendant lights, endless mirrored walls which mirror themselves repeatedly if you look directly into them, and light wood hues form the rest of the space. All together a surreal almost 70s vibe is the setting for a middle-aged, middle class crowd arty/media type crowd.

Whitechapel Dining Rooms, The Food: Tip 1. Don’t be fooled by the name, The Whitechapel Dining Rooms is confusingly next to Aldgate East station, not Whitechapel, as was confirmed when the BF (boy friend) and I rang MR H. to find out where he had gotten to after a 20 minute wait.

Not only had he gone to Whitechapel Station, but he’d then walked 10 minutes in the wrong direction and was now on a big hike back. One should perhaps worry about the clear lack of navigational skills of a man who has in fact lived in the East End of London all his life, but you either have directional instinct or you don’t I suppose? Or maybe, in this day and age, all that he is lacking is a Google maps Ap for his phone.

Once he’d finally arrived, he ordered a glass of champagne to recover from the traumatic journey and I though to myself “damn it, I wish I’d ordered champagne instead of a modest small glass of house red”.

Maria Elia could be seen buzzing around the kitchen (it’s not open plan but I could see one end of it from my seat on the back wall of the dining room). The menu is clearly a woman’s work. The dishes, the ingredient matching, and something in the food in essence is just more ladylike.

To start, I had one of the most divine soups I’ve ever tasted. Do I say this in every blog post? Maybe I just like food too much. But really, the spiced cauliflower, parsnip and ginger soup was creamy and dreamy and the quince jelly, watercress and drizzled truffle oil would have made the likes of Jackson Pollock proud.

The boys both had pan-fried scallops with white bean puree and mushrooms. These were served in a long thin dish and the scallops were gorgeously glazed on top.
For my main course I had pan-fried duck breast served on a bed of creamed lentils with King Edward potatoes. Delish!

The boys – again in unison – ordered a fantastically interesting dish of pot-roasted rabbit, confit rabbit baklava, swiss chard, lemon dressing and parsnip skordalia. Surely a man couldn’t dream this sort of thing up?

Treacle tart with confit rhubarb, creme fraiche and clementine scented macaroon with ginger ganache and clementine salad were both wolfed down quickly by the guys for dessert while I had a macchiato.

Whitechapel Dining Rooms, The Final Word: This is not the place to go for a raucous evening out. By 10pm the dining room had pretty much emptied and Mr H. was subjecting the lovely waitress into listing every liqueur and aperitif they served and their list was limited.

Those that live in the area however will already know that aside from the multitude of endless curry houses on Brick Lane (equally great if you’re in the mood), fine dining is not in abundance, so if you’re after some really great local food, the Whitechapel Dining Rooms is a triumph. It’s ideal for a quiet evening with a partner or a place to take your mum for lunch.

Ps. Opposite there’s a large private dining room, which can be booked from £35 a head for dinner. A nice setting for a private do. Arty party anyone?

Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
T +44 (0)20 7522 7888

Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room on Urbanspoon


  1. Interestingly we ordered exactly the same dishes (apart from the desserts). I also enjoyed WGDR although I felt the scallops were a bit salty. I also thought it would have been a tad expensive without TasteLondon card. I blogged about it too.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  2. Hey that's funny. I guess there's not that many dishes to choose from though. Do you live nearby?

    Foodieinlondon x

  3. Yes, I do, I live in Islington which is not too far. The menu is apparently seasonal, so it will likely change soon. I love your blog. Do you live in East London? We should do a joint review sometime...

    Luiz @ The London Foodie