& Dining Room
19a Lenman Street
London E1 8EN
Tel: 020 7977 0586
This award winning hybrid pub/dining room has a mysterious past and a promising future. It has just been awarded best East London Pub of the year by CAMRA (the real ale guide). It is positioned around the corner from Aldgate Tube Station and Whitechapel High Street. Founded as the Eastern Dispensary in 1870’s with funding from the Duke of Wellington it established itself as the place to go for the poor of the area. Queen Victoria’s surgeon Sir John Williams practiced here. He was one of the main suspects in the Jack the Ripper case. The area and building are steeped in history.
Annie Smith and David Cambridge have renovated and nurtured the dispensary back to life over the last eight years. It now seems a fully formed ready to rock destination pub. The interior is quirky and stylish. Bright colours mix with heritage hues in a complementary union. There is a really neat mezzanine area above the bar with tables and seating and a small private ‘chef’s table’ on the ground floor that will take seven.
Upstairs is a grand Victorian dining room with impossibly high ceilings and grand proportions. This is available for private dining and hire seating up to 40 it is ideal for a larger but still intimate gathering.
But I was here to try the pint out and have some of David’s food. For twenty years David was a private chef to the rich and famous including royalty. He worked for Sir Evelyn de Rothschild all over the world serving the Rothschild family and their guests for over 16 years. So he knows a thing or two about food.
The beer here appeals to all, there is, I’m told a strong female interest and loyalty to the ales served at the Dispensary. I tried Dark Star one of London’s harder to find beers and the strangely named Tea beer. My companion on this occasion was G, when he returned home after our extended lunch his wife struggled to believe he had been drinking Tea all afternoon!
The food is better than your average pub; constantly changing Annie and David are incredibly flexible. For example they told me a party of about seven wanted to book a table for a few days time and David built a menu around their wishes. This is so unusual in this day and age of frozen everything with chips. David scourers Billingsgate and other top local produce suppliers for the finest ingredients – he really enjoys working with food and this shows in the plates he produces.
My starter was a very large portion of mozzarella with basil pesto and hot ciabatta bread. Fresh and full of punch it was a good start. G was more adventurous and chose sautéed squid with chilli and chorizo salad. This was a generous portion and the squid was perfect, not at all rubbery.
The talk naturally turned to the Jack the Ripper case or more accurately the Whitechapel Murders. G who seemed to be suspiciously knowledgeable about the murders sited Sir John Williams as the main suspect as when he disappeared to America the murders stopped. It might seem like an open and shut case but nobody was ever charged with the 1888 killings. It is still an extremely popular topic with guided tours of the area, taking place frequently.
Our mains arrived and G chose a homemade burger with Stilton and hand cut chips. All encased in a neat bun on a wooden board. Ground in house it had the right qualities you’d look for in a good pub burger, juicy, generous with a little salad. They have a pie of the day at The Dispensary and as I love pies I chose the day’s Steak and Kidney. Handmade with short crust pastry and lashings of gravy oozing from the top it tasted fantastic. The chips (I could have had mash) were augmented with trusty ketchup.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch in a very cool and hip pub that seems to effortlessly display its credentials of good beer and food a great vibe and returning customers. Annie will make you feel at home and a bit like that wonderful sitcom Cheers I’m sure it won’t be long before ‘everyone knows your name’.