London’s Best Galleries With Restaurants

An exhibition is always better when it dovetails straight into a relaxed lunch or afternoon tea. And with great chefs starting to branch out into cultural spaces, the capital’s galleries now have some excellent eating spots. From pretty courtyard cafés to a chic new place in the National Gallery, these are the very best…
By Heather Steele /
The Royal Academy Of Arts

The V&A, Kensington

There are a number of places to eat and drink across the V&A’s seven miles of galleries. Most impressive is the museum’s Members’ Room, which is housed in a converted top-lit gallery on the top floor of Aston Webb’s Grade I-listed 1909 wing, which was originally a study room. Now a dedicated space for V&A members, guests are able to enjoy a full range of casual and formal dining options provided by Benugo, including hot and cold breakfast options, lunch and childrens’ choices, plus an all-day café including cakes and cream teas. Non-members can make the most of the outdoors by eating in the courtyard Garden Café, which is open year round (weather dependent in December and January) or head to the Victorian-era Gamble Room Café for coffees, pastries, salads, sandwiches and scones.

Visit VAM.ac.uk

Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

As of last year, acclaimed Spanish chef José Pizarro has taken the helm at the RA’s collection of cafés and bars. Coffee and light refreshments are available in the pretty Courtyard Café and the still-cool Poster Bar, while a full-on taste of Spain can be found at Pizarro’s newest restaurant in the Senate Room. On the first floor of Burlington Gardens, this bright space serves a modern tapas menu and is a great spot for a relaxed lunch or afternoon drink. José Pizarro at RA is also open for dinner on the first Friday of the month. On the lower ground floor, Keeper’s House is a striking members-only space – Friends Café is the place to head to for tea, coffee, drinks and snacks. The Martin Brudnizki-designed Academicians’ Room is also open to members and serves a selection of drinks and light lunch options. Make sure to order a portion of the truffle fries.

Visit JosePizarro.com

V&A Members' Room

Garden Museum, Lambeth

One of our favourites on this list is the Garden Museum’s award-winning Garden Café. Housed in a beaten-bronze pavilion, the restaurant’s interiors are inspired by its leafy surroundings, as is its menu, which is currently looked after by George Ryle, formerly of Primeur and Padella, who serves a weekly changing modern-British and European selection of seasonal dishes: think hake with girolles, leeks and lardo; lamb leg and caponata; hazelnut cake with poached plums and Chantilly cream; and doughnuts with milk ice-cream and chocolate sauce. The café is open seven days a week for lunch, with a dinner service on Tuesday and Friday, and also serves coffee, tea, cakes and biscuits throughout the day.

Visit GardenMuseum.org.uk

Tate Modern, Bankside

The Tate Modern’s sky-high Kitchen & Bar themes a number of its dishes around its current roster of exhibitions. Right now, visitors can enjoy a Salvador Dalí-inspired dish in celebration of the Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibition. Inspired by a recipe from Dalí’s fantastical cookbook Les Diners de Gala, published in 1973, the kitchen has put a contemporary stamp on the recipe ‘Rib of Beef with Cornballs’. In the bar, guests can order a cocktail based on Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms installation. The 'Shimmer CosmipoliTEAn!' blends tea, Tate Sacred gin and cranberry juice, and is served in a martini glass.

Visit Tate.org.uk

Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel

If you like an early start, look at booking an exhibition at east London’s Whitechapel Gallery. Its in-house restaurant Townsend serves a breakfast menu offering inspired takes on English classics. Taking pride of place is the Townsend breakfast bun, which includes a Paddock Farm sausage patty, hash brown and fried duck egg topped with homemade brown sauce, served on a soft white roll. Also on the menu is treacle-cured salmon, soft boiled egg and sour cream on soda bread; potato cake, fried hen’s egg with buttered girolles, chili and sage; and eggy bread with potted brown shrimp and spinach. On the lighter end, there’s poached berries, yoghurt and toasted oats. The restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner.

Visit WhitechapelGallery.org

Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, Marylebone

Tucked behind Oxford Street, this 18th-century townhouse contains a huge selection of paintings, sculpture, furniture and porcelain – all shown against a backdrop of beautiful original interiors. The Wallace Collection's striking courtyard is the impressive location for Peyton and Byrne's French-style brasserie and a drop-in café. Filled with natural light and dotted with trees and sculptures, the Wallace Restaurant offers al fresco-style dining protected from both the elements and the crowds of the West End. Open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, it offers a reasonable prix fixe menu of £26 for two courses and £29 for three.

Visit WallaceCollection.org

Somerset House, Strand

These days, Somerset House is almost as well known for Skye Gyngell’s restaurant Spring as it is for its collection of galleries. Famed for her elegant, simple cooking, her menus focus on classic and seasonal cuisine. It’s a looker, too – expect to be seated among foliage walls, potted trees and walls imprinted with leaf veins. Open for lunch and dinner, guests can expect to sample the likes of warm crab with prawn butter and wholegrain polenta; monkfish with clams, saffron, fennel and garlic aioli; and guinea fowl with charred collard greens, steamed kohlrabi and béarnaise. There are several other eating options too. Dipna Anand’s latest restaurant serves authentic Indian dishes. Heroing the Punjabi and South Indian cuisine that Dipna is known for, the menu features signature dishes like samosa chaat blast, Delhi makhani chicken and classic Thali plates. WatchHouse focuses on serving coffee together with fresh sandwiches, all-day brunch and artisan baked goods. They also have a selection of wines alongside a small plate menu. EAT TEN was developed to offer nutritious and delicious tasting food that doesn’t cost the earth. Their philosophy is simple – use only the highest quality ingredients with the lowest possible delivery miles to minimise the carbon footprint. Pennethorne’s is a stylish bar in the New Wing, open all day, offering an extensive list of drinks as well as sandwiches, salads, soups and small plates such as beef cheek on toast and smoked mackerel; plus nibbles such as maple-glazed bacon peanuts and gordal olives. 

Visit SomersetHouse.org 

Anning Rooms At The Natural History Museum

National Gallery, West End

The couple behind Muriel’s Kitchen recently launched a restaurant in the National Gallery. Ochre offers a contemporary European menu ranging from weekend brunch to dinner and afternoon tea – ideal if you fancy popping in after an exhibition. The beautiful space has been designed by the same team behind Brown’s restaurant Native and the ever-popular Lina Stores, and all the staff are dressed in Boden. Keeping the venue’s original features, much of the furniture is either vintage or designed specifically for the space, made and sourced by dealers in the UK. Case in point: Kaymet has created bespoke trolleys for the restaurant, which are wheeled around piled high with an array of British cheeses. On the rest of the menu, you’ll find the likes of Cornish mackerel and sea lettuce tacos; saffron fettuccine with ricotta, mint pesto and aged parmesan; and smoked aubergine puree with ras el hanout onions and cumin-spiced flat bread.

Visit Ochre.London

Natural History Museum, Kensington

A great space if you’ve got grandchildren to entertain, one of the best child-friendly restaurants at the Natural History Museum is the T Rex Restaurant. Here, guests can enjoy pizzas, salads, toasted sandwiches and puddings, while special kids' meal boxes are available. For something a little more sophisticated, The Anning Rooms is a members-only restaurant and lounge. Located over two floors in the iconic Waterhouse Towers at the centre of the museum, these rooms are a lovely place to have lunch – we love the smoked haddock and salmon fishcake with cajun trinity salad and Old Bay remoulade. Members are able to bring one non-member guest at weekends and school holidays or three non-members during term-time weekdays.

Visit NHM.ac.uk

Museum of the Home, Hoxton

Formerly the Geffrye Museum, the Museum of the Home began life as a museum of furniture and woodwork in 1914 and became a resource for local workers in the East End furniture industry. Over the years, the museum has evolved and expanded, showcasing paintings, furniture and decorated arts in the context of living rooms. New for summer 2022 is bakery and café, Humdingers Shoreditch. Head baker Oscar serves tapas for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with dishes including Spanish charcuterie boards, patatas bravas, seafood and veggie paella and slow-cooked Iberico pulled pork. Alongside tapas, there is a range of pastries, cakes, sandwiches, coffee, wine, beer and pizzas. The space features an outdoor terrace and bar – ideal for a sunny afternoon.

Visit MuseumOfTheHome.org.uk

Ochre At The National Gallery

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