Gallery Restaurants have upped their game with contemporary menus and revamped interiors. Here's our pick of the UK's best
Gone are the days when eating at your favourite art institution involved queuing up for a soggy sandwich. Now visitors can indulge themselves thanks to a new generation of stylish gallery restaurants complete with exciting menus created by top chefs. The Rex Whistler at the Tate Britain on the Thames set the precedent – it’s been serving food in style since 1927. But a recent refurb means the swish interior with its garden mural is even more enticing. The menu boasts classics such as Suffolk Cross lamb, and is a veritable roll call of British producers.
For expansive views, head over to Hyde Park for some sunshine and sashimi at the Serpentine Galleries’ new Zaha Hadid-designed gambit, The Magazine. Bathed in light, it’s easy to wile away the hours with a glass of Prosecco and selection of sushi. The Magazine’s head chef Oliver Lange brings inspiration from his time in Japan, so expect a mix of British and East-Asian flavours like Rhug Estate sirloin beef tataki. ‘Art and contemporary food is a perfect match,’ says Lange. ‘That’s why more galleries are looking for chefs from all over the world. It’s inspiring to work in a setting where food, art, culture, contemporary design and history are combined.’
Below Left: The enchanting garden mural at the Rex Whistler
Right: Dine under the stunning glass roof at the British Museum
Another restaurant with an awe-inspiring outlook is the Great Court at the British Museum in Bloomsbury, London. High above the public courtyard, the dining room is perched breathtakingly close to Norman Foster’s awardwinning curved steel and glass roof. The space has been extensively revamped and offers à la carte or exhibition themed set menus. Right now, eat like a Viking with dishes including guinea fowl with mead reduction. For those sunny days when dining al fresco is a must, the newly redeveloped Ashmolean Museum Dining Room in Oxford offers fantastic views of the city from its rooftop terrace. Savoury dishes such as goat’s cheese and butternut squash salad can be found on the seasonal menu alongside the butcher’s choice cut and fresh fish catch of the day.
Below Left: Dine Alfresco at the Ashmolean, Oxford
Right: Picturesque views at the Scottish Cafe & Restaurant
Another al fresco paradise can be found at the Scottish National Gallery, which has views of Princes Street Gardens from the restaurant’s terrace. Having won awards for its menu, service and sustainability credentials, the Scottish Café and Restaurant also took home the Best Gallery Venue prize in 2013. This year, they’re using produce from their own kitchen garden – bringing even more local flavour to dishes including West Coast mussels and Scottish monkfish broth. As the summer nights roll in, head to the Keeper’s House in Mayfair, the Royal Academy’s redeveloped Victorian wing that holds a fine dining room and bar. Enjoy a menu of seasonal dishes such as monkfish with violette artichoke.
In the autumn, Michelin-starred chef Skye Gyngell launches her first solo venture, Spring, at London’s Somerset House. Expect a perfectly formed menu with delights including poached veal tonnato and peach leaf panna cotta. ‘I’m thrilled to be opening a restaurant in such an iconic building,’ says Gyngell. ‘For me, the environment and aesthetics of a room are as important as the food and the service.’ Let the artful dining endure!
eastern al fresco
Planning to pack a basket for some al fresco dining? Look no further than super chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks Jerusalem, or the allvegetarian Plenty, both inspired by his Italian and Middle-Eastern upbringing. From traditional dips to mini fish burgers and spicy carrot salad, expect liberal amounts of fresh herbs, sharing plates and finger foods that are ideal for fuss-free outdoor dining. ‘How fortunate we are to be living and cooking in a world that offers such a broad spectrum of ingredients and so many culinary heritages to draw on,’ says Ottolenghi. And the chef’s online shop (ottolenghi.co.uk) is proof of this – it’s a veritable treasure trove of ingredients and foodstuff from aromatic spices and exotic oils to orange wine and meringues.
Britain is producing some excellent sparkling wines these days. And bubbles are a must-have for lazy picnics in the park. Nyetimber, whose vineyard is in Sussex, boldly pronounce their wines rival the best in the world. Try the rosé for an afternoon tipple, or splash out on the Blanc de Blanc for a special occasion. Chapel Down is another award-winning producer, and their Three Graces is perfect for some sophisticated outdoor sipping. Or for beer lovers, Curious Brew is a refreshing lager made with Champagne yeast. If you’re feeling regal, there’s the full-bodied Cuvée Princess Colonna from the fabulously named Breaky Bottom vineyard. This summer, raise a toast to home soil