Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Townsend, Whitechapel

Choosing what to eat at Townsend at first seems like a completely impossible job. Not because the menu is too big or confusing or the dishes are unappealing - quite the opposite. It's a list of items so beautifully realised, so charmingly described and so starkly irresistable that even the token vegetarian options, such as they are, seem to beg to be eaten. I mean just take the top five lines:

Bread & butter
Pickled mussels and cockles
Bacon scones with goats curd and chives
Pheasant rillettes, pickled walnut
Fried Wensleydale, heather honey and smoked chilli

Nothing that isn't thoughtful, seasonal and delightful - and absolutely nothing you wouldn't want to order. In the end, using a selection method akin to pinning the menu to the wall and throwing darts at it blindfolded, we ended up first being presented with the bacon scones, topped with fluffy curd and sprinkled with chives. The soft, warm scone alongside the cooling curd made a great combination, and a great start.

Also from what I'm calling the 'snacks' section were these fritters of Wensleydale cheese, topped with an unbeatable combination of honey and chilli. Inside, they were gooey and salty, and way too easy to wolf down.

Following my usual compulsion to order offal whenever I see it, my own starter was curried sweetbreads - or rather sweetbread, it being one massive organ sliced in half, exposing a tender, bright-white interior. I loved everything about this dish, not just the main ingredient but the accompaniment of buttery burnt onions, cauliflower and yoghurt which added all kinds of interesting contrasts. Very clever stuff.

Potato dumplings - just dense enough to provide a bit of bite, but not enough to sit heavy on the stomach - came with a lovely seafood broth and topped with a scattering of brown shrimp. Like everything else, it was poised, considered and very tastefully done, a showcasing of seasonal British cooking in an accessible way. We were really enjoying ourselves by this point - can you tell?

And that was even before the arrival of one more thing guaranteed to bring a smile to my face - game. Pigeon, neatly filleted into two breast portions, skins dark and salty, flesh pink and juicy as it absolutely should be, on top of some nice crunchy leeks and one of those deep, rich restaurant-y sauces that probably took someone a day or two to make. The ease in which Townsend go about things, the extremely reasonable prices and the unpretentious presentations bely a genuinely profound knowledge of technique and mastery of flavours - this is serious food, albeit food that impresses with flavour and joy rather than expensive ingredients and unneccessary frills.

Oh almost forgot - we also ordered a plate of mince and onions, because why the hell wouldn't you. It arrived on a giant mound of mashed potato, "potato" in this case being shorthand for "potato-flavoured butter", an altogether more attractive proposition. Somehow, we managed to finish it.

Having feasted on six dishes between two people, I'm afraid we didn't have room for dessert, but I've every confidence their "spiced treacle and ginger cake" is worth ordering, and cheeses come from Neal's Yard so they'll be great too. Anyway, look, I'm sure you don't need any more details. Townsend is doing more or less everything right for a restaurant in 2020, and now they've opened up again post lockdown (at least "for now", the usual caveat in these uncertain times), you should hurry down to Whitechapel and make the most of it. God knows, you deserve it.


I was invited to Townsend all the way back in the Before Times, and didn't see a bill. Reckon with a bottle of wine the bill would have been something like £50pp, and we had a LOT of food

1 comment:

Phil Bishop said...

oh wow, sounds good enough to force a journey from SW19...