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 restaurants in London’s art galleries.

Words: Ben McCormack   

Bonhams April 2015 8    

Bonhams, St James’s (above)

Paint the picture: Ok, it’s an auction house rather than an art gallery, but if you’re in the mood for buying art as well as looking at it, you won’t find anywhere better to eat than Bonhams’ Michelin-starred restaurant – not least because chef Tom Kemble has a degree in art history. Wines selected by Richard Harvey, head of Bonhams’ wine department, include one-offs from the auction house’s sales.

Art on a plate: Lobster agnolotti with trompettes, turnips and coral sauce

Don’t miss: On 5 November, an auction viewing of fine Chinese and Japanese art

Where: 7 Haunch of Venison Yard, W1K 5ES

Dulwich Picture Gallery Café, Dulwich

Paint the picture: On bright days, this airy space housed in a modern glass extension to the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery is flooded with light, making this a lovely spot for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea; the latter is particularly popular thanks to trad Brit cakes (coffee and walnut, Victoria sponge) washed down with Union coffee and Birchall teas.

Art on a plate: Stilton rarebit with endive, apple and candied walnuts

Don’t miss: Thomas Gainsborough’s Elizabeth and Mary Linley – pretty as a picture

Where: Gallery Road, SE21 7AD

Keeper's House

Keepers House at the Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair (above)

Paint the picture: Nestled in the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard, the 19th-century Keeper’s House is now overseen by Oliver Peyton and co. 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 to the fore.

Art on a plate: Cornish crab ravioli with cockles and samphire

Don’t miss: Springs’s Charles I: King and Collector exhibition promises to be the blockbuster show of 2018

Where: Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD

Parabola at the Design Museum, Kensington

Paint the picture: Modern British food hero Rowley Leigh now heads up the kitchen of this classy Prescott & Conran venture, named after the Design Museum’s pointed roof. The comfortable dining room has views of both the museum’s central atrium and Holland Park, while the decor is as meticulously designed as you would expect.

Art on a plate: Salt-baked celeriac with cavolo nero, salt lemons and roast garlic cream

Don’t miss: You’ll see traffic jams in a new light once you know that road signs are a design classic

Where: 224-238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG

Pharmacy 2 South East London Damien Hurst restaurant

Pharmacy 2 at Newport Street Gallery, Vauxhall (above)

Paint the picture: Damien Hirst’s long-closed Notting Hill restaurant Pharmacy has been resurrected in Vauxhall, in partnership with Mark Hix – whose influence on the modern British menu is evident, as too in the well-edited wine choice and concise cocktail list. The dining room is located within Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, tucked down an anonymous street by railway tracks for urban edge.

Art on a plate: Galician octopus salad with sea aster and capers

Don’t miss: The restaurant’s Hirst-designed medicine cabinets and pill-shaped bar stools is an art installation in itself

Where: Newport Street, SE11 6AJ  

The Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Paint the picture: This all-dayer at the top of the National Portrait Gallery wears its spectacular skyline view lightly, and it’s worth coming up just for the visual distractions of Nelson’s Column and Big Ben. Plentiful, courteous staff also make it an ideal choice for afternoon tea with elderly friends or parents.

Art of a plate: Pan-fried scallops with tomatoes, garlic, parsley and parmentier potato

Don’t miss: Hard to say whether Holbein’s Henry VIII or the Darnley Portrait of Elizabeth I is the more iconic

Where: St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE

Rex Whistler Sept 2016 2

Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain, Pimlico (above)

Paint the picture: A restaurant as full of culture and character as any exhibit in the glorious Tate Britain, this aptly named eatery comes wrapped in a full-size Whistler mural depicting a stylised hunt for mythical rare meats. British cooking from a serious-minded kitchen is matched to a brilliantly curated wine list.

Art on a plate: Roast Hampshire trout with new potatoes, white onions and shrimp butter

Don’t miss: John Everett Millais’ Ophelia: the painting that launched a thousand fridge magnets

Where: Millbank, SW1P 4RG

Rochelle Canteen at The ICA, St James’s

Paint the picture: Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold’s Rochelle Canteen has found a second home at The Institute of Contemporary Art. It’s a relaxed and light-filled space, with only a handful of covers and a semi-open kitchen, and a seasonally changing menu of rustic British cooking.

Art on a plate: Partridge, trotter and prune pie

Don’t miss: Until January, a retrospective of American artist Seth Price

Where: The Mall, SW1Y 5AH

Tate Modern Restaurant London Southbank Switch House museum

Tate Modern Restaurant, Bankside (above)

Paint the picture: Tate Modern’s flagship restaurant is housed in level nine of the twisted, off-kilter pyramid that is the Switch House. Boasting fabulous views, the stripped-back room is dressed in raw oak and bare concrete, leading to a canteen-style feel. A concise menu of carefully-sourced Brit dishes is matched to a 100-strong wine list packed with both classic and unusual bottles.

Art on a plate: Josper-grilled hake with parsnip, spring onion and violet potatoes

Don’t miss: Lose yourself afterwards in Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals as your meal digests

Where: Switch House, Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG

The Wallace at The Wallace Collection, Marylebone

Paint the picture: 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, 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.

Art on the plate: Crab salad with avocado and lemon mayonnaise

Don’t miss: The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals: neither laughing nor a cavalier

Where: Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN

The Whitechapel Refectory cafe bar

Whitechapel Refectory, Whitechapel Gallery (above)

Paint the picture: The perennially interesting art gallery gets its café-bar right, thanks to Luke Wilson and Cameron Emirali (the chaps behind 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton Square). On Thursday and Friday, the space morphs into cool hook-up After Hours (open until 11pm), when the focus shifts to charcuterie, cheeses and interesting wines.

Art on the plate: Salmon fillet with radicchio, fennel and boiled egg

Don’t miss: Until 21 January, an exhibition of Thomas Ruff photos

Where: Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX

Looking for more visual stimulation? Check out our list of the best-designed restaurants in London.

This article was published 26 October 2017