London’s best art gallery and museum restaurants

“Art is either revolution or plagiarism,” quipped the French painter Paul Gauguin – and the same could be said of restaurants. Combine art with eating and head to one of these beautiful gallery and museum restaurants.

Updated on • Written By Tara Spink

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London’s best art gallery and museum restaurants

Art and food have an illustrious history. Stone Age cave artists used animal fats and vegetable juice to bind their paints, while the ancient Egyptians carved images of bread and crops on hieroglyphic tablets. The portraits of the Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, meanwhile, depict facial features composed of fruit and vegetables which in their surreal strangeness still look strikingly modern today.

It was in the Dutch Golden Age, however, that the relationship between food and art reached its apotheosis in the still life paintings of the 17th century. The Dutch masters’ rendering of dust-covered grapes, shiny-skinned apples, glistening fish and waxy cheeses still look good enough to eat 400 years later.

More recent artists have rendered food in a more impressionistic form – from the apple tarts of Monet to the fruit bowls of Cézanne – while in the 20th century, Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s soup can proved that pop will eat itself.   


Of course, many chefs see themselves as artists, and the debate as to whether food is art will rage for as long as there are diners willing to hand over money to pay someone else to cook their dinner (or artists to pay for their dinner with their paintings, as Van Gogh did).

And while there are many London restaurants with some knockout art collections on their walls – The Ivy’s selection of modern British art includes Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley while an entire Damien Hirst cow in formaldehyde hangs in Mark Hix’s Tramshed – London’s actual art galleries have seriously upped their games in recent years with food offerings that are as much of an attraction as the exhibitions inside.

Whether your taste runs to old masters or cutting-edge contemporary, London’s most prestigious galleries now make sure that there is art on the plate as well as hanging on the walls. Here’s our pick of the best art gallery restaurants, as well as restaurants in museums, across London.   

The Portrait Restaurant at The National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Tables and the London skyline

What: This all-dayer at the top of the National Portrait Gallery wears its spectacular skyline view lightly, and it’s worth coming up to The Portrait just for the visual distractions of Nelson’s Column and Big Ben. Now taken over by renowned chef Richard Corrigan, the menu features the best of British and Irish produce, from snails and duck hearts to steamed Dover Sole.
Where: National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE
Book now: The Portrait Restaurant

Spring at Somerset House, The Strand


What: Spring prides itself on being produce driven, wholesome, and cooked by a team who truly care about what they do. It was opened by Skye Gyngell, who has become one of London’s most well respected chefs, having previously headed up the kitchen at Petersham Nurseries. To eat, think grilled langoustine with citrus butter or gnudi with girolles, lemon leaf and ricotta salata - but of course the menu changes with the seasons, so you can never be too sure what you’ll be tucking into.
Where: Somerset House, Lancaster Place, WC2R 1LA
Book now: Spring

José Pizarro at The Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair

Colourful restaurant interiors

What: José Pizarro brings his classic style to The Royal Academy of Arts, with relaxed Spanish tapas perfect for lunch or dinner. Drawing on the similarities between art and food, Pizarro hopes to evoke the same level of excitement through his food as art lovers get from visiting the RAA. To eat, the menu includes a fantastic array of moderately priced dishes such as pan con tomate and spicy prawn fritters with lemon allioli.
Where: Senate Room Royal Academy of Arts, 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET
Book now: José Pizarro

Forza Wine at The National Theatre, Southbank

Green leather seating

What: Forza Wine has always been known as one of Peckham’s best restaurants, but in 2023 it added a slightly more central location to its portfolio. Now located upstairs at The National Theatre, there’s no better place to tuck into seasonal ‘Italian-ish’ small plates with a glass of natural wine.
Where: Forza Wine, Upper Ground, National Theatre, SE1 9PX
Book now: Forza Wine

Townsend at Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel

Wooden interiors

What: Townsend is a modern British restaurant, café and wine bar from Nick Gilkinson (of Garden Café and Anglo) who has paired up with head chef Chris Shaw (ex Petersham Nurseries and BAO Soho) to create a menu that showcases Britain's very best seasonal produce. Examples include roast onion squash with white beans, chanterelles and cavolo nero pesto, and roast mallard with braised radicchio, spiced carrot and prunes.
Where: Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX
Book now: Townsend

Barbican Brasserie at The Barbican Centre, Barbican


What: Brought to you from the team behind Searcys, Barbican Brasserie offers views of the iconic Barbican lakeside, Here, guests can tuck into a combination of British and European dishes, such as calves liver with potato gratin and rosemary and garlic baked camembert.
Where: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
Book now: Barbican Brasserie

Ochre at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

light dining room

What: Located in London’s iconic Trafalgar Square, Ochre offers lunch, afternoon tea and dinner in a suitably chic setting. With neutral tones, plenty of natural light by day and atmospheric lighting once the sun goes down, this is a perfect setting to relax IN after soaking up some of the capital’s culture.
Where: National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
Book now: Ochre

Toklas at 180 The Strand, the Strand

Tables, chairs and paintings

What: Toklas is a celebration of simple, unfussy dining, with a focus on Mediterranean style plates. Known as much for its bakery as it is the restaurant and bar, it’s great for stopping by for an afternoon coffee and croissant as well as a lassaiz-fare dinner out on the terrace.
Where: 180 The Strand, 1 Surrey Street, WC2R 2ND
Book now: Toklas

Dulwich Picture Gallery Café, Dulwich

Baked goods

What: On bright days, this airy space housed in a modern glass annexe to the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery is flooded with light, making Dulwich Picture Gallery Café a lovely spot for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. The latter is particularly popular thanks to traditional British cakes (lemon drizzle, scones with cream and jam) which can be enjoyed along with kids’ picnic boxes on the lawn in summer.
Where: Dulwich Picture Gallery, College Road, SE21 7AD
Book now: Dulwich Picture Gallery Café

Keepers House at the Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair

Green wall and white table cloth chairs

What: Nestled in the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard, the 19th-century Keeper’s House is now overseen by Oliver Peyton. Dramatic classical casts adorn the windowless dining room’s olive-green walls, but the menu is more modish postmodern than old masters, with artisan ingredients and seasonal pickings at the fore.
Where: Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
Book now: Keepers House

Wallace Restaurant at Wallace Collection, Marylebone

Conservatory dining space

What: You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but as well as housing many covetable treasures, The Wallace Collection also boasts a unique and rather beautiful restaurant, housed in a pink-toned, glass-covered internal courtyard, edged with columns and filled with trees. The daytime menus run from breakfast to lunch and afternoon tea.
Where: Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN
Book now: Wallace Restaurant

Prefer to create the art yourself instead of admiring other people's? Take a look at our round up of the best paint and sip classes in London, where you can release your inner Picasso whilst tucking into a bottle of your favourite tipple.

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