The old café at the Whitechapel Gallery was a good place for a coffee, but it didn’t have the buzz to match the world-class art. At the end of last year it was taken over by the people who run 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton Square and reincarnated as two separate enterprises sharing the same space: a new café called The Whitechapel Refectory and a wine bar named After Hours. Both of the new spots are winners, but it’s After Hours that makes this place worth dropping by even if there’s no art on the agenda.
Open till 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings only, it takes up the same wood-panelled space as the old café did, sprawled across the foyer. The wine list, arranged from light to heavy, is wide-ranging and decently-priced – our bottle of red was a delightfully sweet Italian primitivo at £24. There’s a rotating cheese and charcuterie selection for sophisticated stomach-lining: fiery ’nduja, a nicely savoury yarg and a heavenly serrano were the real masterpieces on display.
As for the vibe, it’s chic but relaxed with pleasantly unstarchy, clued-up service. There are special events – DJ sets, wine tastings and so forth – on two Saturdays each month. There are also lots of dates to eavesdrop on and the location draws a predictably arty crowd. But you’ll find a warm welcome here even if you thought the Turner Prize was named after Anthea.