Among the bustling city, crowded pavements and dynamic construction sites, is the calm oasis of Townsend. A discrete restaurant and café attached to the iconic Whitechapel gallery, which applies the same forward-thinking approach to its menu, as the gallery does to art.
Named after the Grade II listed building’s architect, Charles Harrison Townsend, the unassuming entrance to the restaurant is just through the main gallery entrance. A modern, but classic, wood-panelled dining room, edged with banquettes upholstered in deep brown leather, sit upon a beautiful herringbone parquet floor. There’s a romantic and intimate feel to the place, as the light streams through the windows across the midcentury-modern tables and chairs.
The vibe is chilled and the waiting staff are friendly, but not overbearing, with a good knowledge of the food and wine. All the food is locally and UK sourced, with the menu changing daily using seasonal produce. The menu is uncomplicated and takes away much of the angst from the diner, as head chef, Chris Shaw, has already chosen his best dishes for the day.
We shared the light and fluffy Red Leicester croquettes with pickled walnut; beautifully cooked, silky Cornish cod with girolles and sweetcorn; the potato and squash dumplings with Graceburn cheese, sage and walnuts was a winner, although each dish held its own. We couldn’t resist a side of delicious fried pink fir potatoes.
The pairing menu is great value with interesting and evolving wines; some from Romania, Greece and the UK, including award-winning English wine from Oxney Organic Estate. If wine isn’t your thing, try the unusually named Fox, Dog, Cat cider from Somerset.
It would be discourteous to ignore the three desserts and English cheeseboard – we shared a pear, hazelnut and brown butter tart served with whipped cream and the heavenly 66% chocolate with coffee cream and buckwheat, both of which were delicious, washed down with Spartan aged sweet wine. We couldn’t fault any dish and were blown away by the big, bold flavours. Townsend is a stylish and interesting restaurant, perfect for a lunch or a casual dinner with friends – or a second date.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX
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