Mere gallery cafés aren’t quite enough in 2018. At long last, eye-wateringly expensive cups of weak tea and cakes better suited to the Natural History Museum’s palaeontology collections are finally out of favour. While some of London’s popular museums and galleries are now served by Benugo (the V&A, Science Museum, The Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park), others are home to genuinely exciting restaurants. Members of this new breed are each notable in their own right, not as mere afterthoughts, as a place to refuel after traipsing big ticketed exhibitions.Read More
The 8 Best Restaurants In London Art Galleries and Museums
The places across town where there’s as much to eat as there is to see
1. Portrait Restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery’s top floor restaurant has a long, narrow dining room and is thus louder than the apocalypse. The food is mostly impressive, however, and impressive views across Trafalgar Square are guaranteed from each seat. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves a Mediterranean-inspired fine dining menu of classic dishes executed with modern flair. Fish and seafood cookery is the kitchen’s clear strength.
2. The Garden Cafe
An urban oasis in central London, The Garden Café is affixed to The Garden Museum at the foot of Lambeth Bridge. Natural light floods the spacious dining room and the constantly changing menu features simple, seasonal dishes — elegantly presented and served on classic white plates, rarely featuring more than three main ingredients. These may include cold breakfast radishes with cod’s roe; cockles, bacon and laverbread; or gently spiced breast of lamb with chickpeas and bitter chicory: substance over style at its best.
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3. Pharmacy 2
The second coming of artist Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant, Pharmacy 2 is an immersive addition to Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall. His long time friend and chef Mark Hix has created a menu up there with the best in London galleries (‘Heaven and Earth’ — a marble of soft black pudding with mashed apple and potato is a must-try), but the eccentric dining room is the main draw. Stained glass windows have double helix patterns, bar stools resemble pastel-coloured lozenges and surrounding medicine cabinets are packed full of every type of pill, capsule and medical paraphernalia.
4. The Store Kitchen at 180 Strand
London WC2R 1EA, UK
Since launching, The Store has hosted a number of exhibitions. Most recently, the sets and puppets from Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ were showcased alongside a working replica of the film’s noodle bar, run by Engawa. The Store also boasts a trendy café, focussing on natural, healthy food. Expect fresh pasta topped with leek, Tokyo turnip and hazelnuts (for additional textural depth), or hung yoghurt with dill and pumpkin seeds. Excellent, often unexpected sandwiches and drinks are always on offer, too.
5. Osteria at the Barbican Centre
If Osteria’s dining room is unattractive, be thankful for the views of the brutalist Barbican Centre. (Try to get a table on the edge of the dining room, looking out.) Elsewhere, there’s plenty to love here. Modern Italian bistro cooking is showcased in simple dishes. A fillet of plaice is modestly presented with new potatoes and samphire, for instance, and dressed with a butter and caper sauce. Grilled octopus is a clear speciality though (with more potatoes and capers), as is the ham-wrapped saddle of rabbit saltimbocca. One of London’s more underrated restaurants.
6. Tate Modern Restaurant at The Blavatnik Building
On the ninth floor of the new Blavatnik Building, the Tate Modern Restaurant boasts impressive views across the river. Service is casual and the atmosphere relaxed, while the menu has a strong focus on seasonal British cooking. Simple, yet accomplished. Moreover, to accompany the Picasso 1932 — Love, Fame, Tragedy exhibition, a Picasso-inspired lunch menu is currently available. Dishes include roast rabbit leg with chickpeas and tomato, or bacon crapiaux with pungent Andouilette sausage and English mustard: a perfect pairing.
7. José Pizarro @ Royal Academy of Arts
Open from 11 August 2021, the famed Spanish chef will bring a formal restaurant — with the likes of strawberry gazpacho and Ibérico presa — and a tapas bar boasting croquetas; truffle sandwiches; tortillas; and empanadas to Mayfair.
Replacing the also-lauded Whitechapel Refectory in 2020, Nick Gilkinson — formerly of fellow listee Garden Museum Cafe — and Joe Fox — formerly of fellow listee Petersham Nurseries — Townsend has gone from strength to strength in its short, pandemic-clipped life. Dishes like fried Wensleydale with heather honey and smoked chilli; wild mushrooms with egg yolk, Berkswell cheese, and truffle; and poached root vegetables with potato cake and green sauce betray the fact that this is a modern British restaurant aware that much of modern British is really old European with an accent.