The Art of Dining: Best London Museum & Gallery Restaurants


museum dining

Afternoon tea in the beautiful courtyard of The Wallace Collection. (Image courtesy The Wallace Collection)

Combine a culture and foodie fix with our pick of 11 of the best museum and gallery dining spots in London. The capital’s acclaimed art galleries and museums host destination dining venues, including cosy cafés, smart bars and go-to restaurants. From tasty breakfasts to casual lunches, decadent high teas and impressive dinners, there are plenty of gourmet options for refuelling in style.

(Image courtesy The Wallace Collection)

The Wallace Collection

Admire the fabulous paintings, sculpture, furniture, arms and armour at elegant free museum The Wallace Collection, home to fine and decorative arts. Era-spanning works include oil paintings by Titian, Velázquez, Rubens and Van Dyck. Afterwards treat yourself to lunch or indulgent afternoon tea in the stunning courtyard, where Peyton and Byrne’s day-long French-style brasserie The Wallace Restaurant and a drop-in café offer tasty bites and drinks. Flooded with natural light and dotted with trees and sculptures, it’s a tranquil oasis for charming museum dining in London, near Oxford Street and Marylebone’s chic shops. Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1

museum dining

The elegant Ochre restaurant. (Image courtesy The National Gallery)

The National Gallery

Art fans could easily spend a day wandering The National Gallery, the UK’s acclaimed collection of international and local art, which features a jaw-dropping free permanent collection and high-profile changing exhibitions. For stylish museum dining in London make for the gallery’s restaurant Ochre, which serves seasonal British produce with a modern European twist. The tempting menu runs from brunch to afternoon tea, dinner and drinks at the cocktail bar. Live music nights and a private dining room add glamour. Casual café Muriel’s Kitchen and the Espresso Bar by Muriel’s are handy for coffee, cakes and snacks. Trafalgar Square, London WC2


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British Museum

The vast British Museum covers two million years of human history and culture, with displays ranging from Stonehenge to Egyptian mummies. Whether you’re exploring the dazzling permanent collection or a captivating exhibition, you’ll need to refuel. The Great Court Restaurant enjoys a lofty perch high under the museum’s magnificent canopy roof, ensuring bird’s-eye views. It’s open daily for a refined yet relaxed two- or three-course lunch, or afternoon tea including a delicious cream tea, ideal for sociable gatherings. On the ground floor below, the Court Café offers sandwiches, snacks, salads and cakes for informal grazing. Great Russell Street, London WC1

The Gamble Room at the V&A museum cafe museum dining

The sumptuous Gamble Room at the V&A Museum (©Victoria and Albert Museum, London)


The Victoria and Albert Museum – or V&A – is a treasure trove of decorative arts, design and fashion, commanding a wonderful heritage-modern building in South Kensington. Its historic gallery dining includes The Main Café, the world’s oldest museum restaurant. Designed by James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter, its opulent rooms radiate Victorian charm, with ornate ceilings, columns and vibrant walls. It serves hot and cold meals, salads and sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones. A hidden oasis, The Garden Café offers light snacks and drinks, with lovely views of the central courtyard, ornamental plants, flowers and trees. Cromwell Road, London SW7


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Somerset House

Headed up by Australian talent Skye Gyngell, Spring restaurant at arts centre Somerset House — where The Courthauld is located — is set in a restored 19th-century drawing room with elegant arched windows, pale leather seats, a white marble bar and ethereal pendant lights. Formerly head chef at Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries, Gyngell serves a delicious, daily changing seasonal menu of British food. Think slow-cooked pork with sage, fennel and blood orange or sirloin with Jerusalem artichokes and grilled leeks. In the New Wing, it’s open select days for lunch and dinner. The neo-classical building hosts cultural events from art exhibitions to design shows. Lancaster Place, London WC2

museum dining

José Pizarro restaurant at the Royal Academy. (Photo by Jason Spoor courtesy the Royal Academy)

Royal Academy of Arts

Showcasing stellar art exhibitions in its historic Piccadilly home, the Royal Academy (RA) is a top spot for gallery dining in London. Its newest all-day restaurant José Pizarro, named after the respected Spanish chef and located in the Senate Rooms in Burlington Gardens, celebrates quality produce and flavoursome Spanish cuisine. The light-filled, first-floor space serves ham and pork cuts, wild white prawns with garlic and chilli, and tasty tapas plates to share over lunch or dinner. Poster Bar by José is an informal Spanish café or visit the RA’s other inviting indoor and outdoor venues. 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1


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Museum of the Home

Devoted to UK domestic life, the Museum of the Home occupies a row of 18th-century almshouses in East London. Permanent displays share room sets representing British homes through time, alongside changing exhibitions and pretty gardens. Set in a former Victorian pub building, Molly’s Café is a warm, inviting museum dining space offering a good value, seasonal menu. Red curtains and green and pink chairs add cheery touches, enlivened by fresh flowers. Doubling as a canteen for the local community, Molly’s serves breakfast, snacks and lunch, meringues and scones for afternoon tea, and hearty, home-cooked suppers. 136 Kingsland Road, London E2

museum dining

The Barbican’s Osteria restaurant. (Photo by Thomas Skovsende courtesy Barbican Centre)


Brutalist multi-arts centre the Barbican is famous for its striking modern architecture. Visitors can take in an art or design exhibition, film, theatre show or concert, then relax at Osteria, a contemporary Italian restaurant on the second floor with fantastic views of the Barbican lakeside and fountains. Generous, simple Italian dishes are paired with Italian cocktails and regional wines (don’t miss the Negroni Bar). Open for lunch or dinner, there’s a choice of fixed-price menus, ranging from one to three courses. For more pre- or post-performance drinks, the Martini Bar beckons on the first floor. Silk Street, London EC2


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Serpentine Galleries

Wander leafy Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, explore cutting-edge art in the twin-site Serpentine Galleries near The Serpentine lake, then kick back at The Magazine Restaurant. Within Serpentine North Gallery, this futuristic, curvy white-and-glass space was designed by late architect Zaha Hadid. Pale and organic inside, it allows the verdant park to stay centre stage. Slovakian-born chef Tomas Kolkus whips up a contemporary menu that’s sustainable, seasonal and seductive, with minimum waste. Book for breakfast or lunch to savour dishes such as Scottish mussels with vermouth or Berkshire pork with spring greens and rhubarb relish. West Carriage Drive, London W2

museum dining

An incredible view from the Tate Modern restaurant. (Image courtesy Tate)

Tate Modern

Fancy spectacular views with your gallery dining in London? Tate Modern, a former power station by the Thames, offers jaw-dropping panoramas from its casual Kitchen and Bar (Level 6, Natalie Bell Building). Enjoy delicious seasonal dishes while admiring the river, city skyline, St Paul’s cathedral and the Millennium Bridge. Mains span creative options for meat, fish and plant eaters – leave space for dreamy desserts. Drinks include art-inspired cocktails. Tate Modern’s main Restaurant, on Level 9 of the Blavatnik Building, is currently closed, but watch this space. The modern art collection and blockbuster exhibitions here are always exciting. Bankside, London SE1


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Design Museum

The world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design, the Design Museum commands an atmospheric building in Kensington, with a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Refuel at the Design Museum Café, an appealing coffee shop on the ground floor of the soaring Atrium, that opens daily. A selection of drinks, cakes and pastries are up for grabs, with gluten-free and vegan options. Coffee comes care of London Grade Coffee and is flavour-packed and ethically sourced. 224–238 Kensington High Street, London W8


And finally … look out for the return of the National Portrait Gallery in 2023 after a major renovation. Its beloved Portrait Restaurant boasted some of the best gallery dining in London, with postcard-perfect views of Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column.

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