Townsend, London: ‘A place to keep the world at bay’ – restaurant review

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Editor’s note: we have decided that, while restaurants remain open, we will continue to review them

Townsend at the Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX (020 7522 7896). Snacks/starters £4-£9, mains £16-£21, desserts £6-£7, set menu £20, wines from £24

Every few days Sam Sifton, a former restaurant critic for the New York Times and now one of that newspaper’s most senior editors, emails out a newsletter full of cheery cooking tips and recipe ideas. The tone of a recent instalment suggests that Sifton, a quietly urbane man with the air of someone who has seen quite enough of everything thank you very much, is starting to lose it. After an impeccably polite “Good morning” he went on to detail the woes bedevilling his country: the fires across the American west, the rising unemployment, the crash and grind of political tensions, the scourge of systemic racism, the growing pestilence of social isolation that “has led to increases in overdoses, to declines in mental health, to loneliness so intense as to be personified”.

That was paragraph one. Paragraph two started: “And I’m here to sell you on a pan-fried eggplant with chilli, honey and ricotta?” The sweet tone of bafflement is understood. Are we really going to be celebrating such small things, when there are so many huge calamities pressing themselves against our front doors, trying to get in?…

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