Opened in February 2020, just before the first nationwide lockdown, Townsend is a British restaurant and cafe in the Whitechapel Gallery.
Named after Charles Harrison Townsend, the architect responsible for the impressive grade II listed Whitechapel Gallery building, the restaurant features modern, seasonal dishes served in a Mid-Century style dining room. At lunchtime, the space is flooded with natural light from the wall-to-wall sash windows, while the room is more comfortable in the evening with lower lighting. Townsend also has an intimate, wood-paneled private dining room (“the Library”), seating up to 14 for dinner or up to 20 for stand-up events only.
Earlier this year, Chris Shaw was also named the new chef, having worked in the kitchen at restaurants such as BAO Soho, Petersham Nurseries, Roux at Parliament Square and Emile. At Townsend, the chef serves a parade of gorgeous, seasonally focused dishes, available alongside a concise wine list defending old world vineyards and a mix of natural and traditional methods.
On a recent visit, lunch began with a tour of Red Leicester croquettes, with the dark orange providing a rich topping, also sprinkled with finely grated Red Leicester cheese. While the croquettes were practically perfect, the accompanying pickled walnut vinaigrette was the crown jewel of the dish’s proverbial crown, working in glorious harmony with the cheese while removing some of the richness and smoothness of the croquettes to provide a exceptional balance.
Pickled onion petals and a generous grill of fresh horseradish also brought balance to a dish of savory scones topped with a generous mound of smoked mackerel, complementing but never overpowering the fish: easily one of the best dishes eaten. in Townsend, with the celeriac salad.
Aesthetically resembling a pasta dish, wide ribbons of thin celeriac were joined by a blizzard of grated Berkswell cheese, black truffle and a butter and sherry vinegar dressing topped with a handful of hazelnuts to offer to both a depth of texture and another richness to the dish that has pushed the boundaries of salad making.
To follow, a dish of potato and squash dumplings was the absolute personification of fall. With cylindrical dumplings more like big gnocchi, the bold squash flavors were accompanied by rich, milky, feta-esque Graceburn cheese and large fried sage leaves. In contrast, a brook trout dish had a lighter touch, housing a slice of skillfully cooked fish with crispy skin, cradling on a bed of peeled mussels, leeks and samphire, plus a substantial drizzle of seafood sauce. garlic three wedges.
Becoming one of Chris Shaw’s signature dishes in Townsend, the dessert featured yeast-free donuts, topped with icing sugar and meant to be dipped in a thick fig leaf custard topped with poached raspberries. A simple but well-executed dish with good balance and remarkable attention to detail, as seems to be a recurring theme with the Townsend menu. A typical pretentious and overpriced gallery restaurant serving lackluster food, it certainly isn’t.
Townsend can be found at 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX.
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