Artful dining at five London museums

By Anya von Bremzen
June 10, 2009
Daniel Ward

He says palette, you say palate, he says Gainsborough, you want gazpacho. No need to call the whole thing off — at least not in London, where some major museums and galleries, after much-publicized expansions, now provide a lot more than a feast for the eyes.

Tate Modern Café (Bankside; 44-207/401-5020) led the avant-garde pack with its panoramic seventh-floor dining space overseen by über-restaurateur Jeremy King, of Ivy and Caprice fame (no reservations, so be prepared for a wait). The National Portrait Gallery responded with the glassed-in Portrait Restaurant & Bar (St. Martin's Place; 44-207/312-2490) atop its new Ondaatje Wing (think potted salmon, saffron rice pudding, and postcard views of London). At the Wallace Collection, the Fragonards will seem even more delicious after a light Gallic lunch at Café Bagatelle (Hertford House, Manchester Square; 44-207/563-9505) in the freshly pink sculpture courtyard. And at the Admiralty (The Strand; 44-207/845-4646), located in the Neoclassical riverside complex of Somerset House — the new home of the famed Gilbert Collection of Decorative Arts — Boris Rabin's terrines and pâtés are the talk of London. Even the Dulwich Picture Gallery, England's oldest, has emerged from its expensive face-lift with the bucolic Picture Gallery Café (Gallery Rd., Dulwich Village; 44-208/299-8717). Dine on smoked duck or take high tea while overlooking the lush five-acre garden.

So, which was sweeter, the Constable or the crème caramel?