The Whitechapel Art Gallery was established in 1901 and exhibited Picasso’s famous Guernica in 1939. In April 2009 it reopened after a major refurbishment, and unveiled The Dining Room, serving modern British food in a casual setting. The restaurant has rattled through three head chefs quickly, but Emma Duggan has been here nearly two years now. She previously worked at Foxtrot Oscar and before that at St John’s Tavern in Archway; Angela Hartnett is consultant chef to the restaurant.
The menu changes daily, and had starters priced from £5 to £12.50, main courses £11.50 to £15.50, side dishes £3.50 extra and desserts £5.50. The short wine list ranged in price from £18.50 to £40, with a median price of £26.50 and an average mark-up of three times the retail price, which is fairly normal for London. Example wines were Running Duck Chenin Blanc 2010 at £22.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £8, and La Zerba Gavi Di Tassarolo 2010 at £34.50 for a wine that retails at about £14.
Spicy fishcakes with tartare sauce (£3.25) were simple but nicely made, the batter crisp and the seasoning well controlled (13/20). Razor clams (£8.50) were served with smoked bacon, scallions, radish and lemon dressing. Razor clams can easily turn out chewy if not carefully selected and prepared, but these were fine; the bacon worked well with the clams, the dressing giving a nice freshness to the dish (14/20).
Squid with chilli (£8.50) has squid that was not remarkable in quality but certainly miles away from the rubbery things that often appear on London plates, the salad with it carefully dressed (13/20). Linguine of crab (£12.50) had pasta with good texture, the chilli gremolata with it not too strong, though the dish could have been warmer when it arrived at the table (13/20).
Dressed crab gratin (£12.50) had a generous amount of crabmeat, no shell other than that in which it was served, and well-balanced dressing (14/20). Truffled chips (£3.50) were light on truffle but had reasonable texture (13/20). Prune and Armagnac tart was very good, the pastry made from scratch, the Armagnac not too strong (14/20). Panna cotta with rhubarb was silky soft, the rhubarb giving some balancing acidity (13/20).
Service was friendly; the bill came to £37 a head with just water to drink. Overall I liked it here: a light, airy room, capable cooking and fair prices.