Going to London’s museums and art galleries is one of the best ways to spend a day in this city. But, it’s also a lot of effort. There’s all that standing, the countless thoughtful head tilts, and the anxiety of pretending you know the difference between cubism and expressionism. That’s why it’s important to go to the right restaurants that are not only nearby, but where you can sit down, relax, refuel, and Google whether that painting you saw was of a fruit basket or a parrot. From a cheap and cheerful Italian spot in Kensington, to London’s original nose to tail dining spot, this is where to eat near London’s best museums and galleries.
Culture is great and all, but you want something a little more filling. And delicious. Something like a bowl of perfectly cooked aged beef with butter rice, complete with a silky egg yolk on top. Which is exactly what you should be getting from Bao Borough. London’s Taiwanese specialists now have an excellent third space just 15 minutes from the Tate Modern. That means that once you’ve got your culture fix, it’s time to get your deep-fried curry cheese bao and fried chicken fix.
We find that a Saturday afternoon composed of queuing, staring, and tripping over circles of sketching school kids makes different people crave different things. The best way to avoid a regrettable hangry fallout is by sating almost every craving by heading to Caravan. From grain bowls, to pizzas, to small plates, to pork schnitzel, this place has got it all.
If going to a gallery is just part one of a special-thoughtful-activity-type-day then you may want to consider a meal at Native afterwards to keep this feeling going. It’s a casual fine dining spot on Southwark Street that serves an always changing menu prepared with solely seasonal UK produce. It’s cool, it’s casual, and the food is consistently tip-top. If you’re lucky enough to be here during grouse season, then it’s the thing to get.
Alternatively, you might just fancy something familiar. In which case Casa Do Frango is a fine option for piri piri chicken, prawns, and a moreish bowl of rice featuring chicken skin, chorizo, and plantain. This buzzing warehouse space is an ideal spot for groups or if you’re on a big excursion with little ones as well. The food is tasty and easy plus, if drinks are on the cards, there’s a small but sweet selection of cocktails.
THE HAYWARD GALLERY / SOUTHBANK CENTRE
Alcohol does, by and large, improve almost any situation. And the pensive, tumbleweed-ish environment of a room filled with people staring at a decomposing nappy on the floor is definitely one of those situations. Sadly, unless you’re part of the private view gang, you’ll have to wait until you get to the Anchor and Hope before getting a drink. That’s a blessing in disguise though, because this Southwark gastropub is one of the best around. Plus their Mediterranean-inspired food is also excellent.
Nothing says get me a cocktail, stat, like a completely bonkers exhibition. You know, the kind that features a giant ball pit, or a slide, or a 360 degree screened room of roaming cows reciting the Queen’s Christmas message. Thankfully Spiritland is in the basement of the Southbank Centre, so if you need somewhere to digest/consume, you can be knocking back martinis and getting involved with some calamari or cacio e pepe in no time. As far as all-day restaurant and bars go, this is one to know about.
A peak British day spent on the Thames, at the Tate Britain, deserves to be followed by a peak British all-day breakfast at the Regency Cafe. This is London’s most well known old school caf and it’s also just a 10 minute wander from Tate Britain. As you might expect, the portions are generous, and the shouts from the kitchen - EXTRA BLACK PUDDING, HASH BROWNS, TWO EGGS - regular. It’s open in the evening as well, if it’s something like a homemade steak and kidney, or ham egg and chips, that you’re after.
Sometimes you just need a dumplings and noodles fix, and those times tend to be after you’ve spent two hours sternly staring at a blob on canvas with your hands behind your back. So it’s a good thing A. Wong is only a 15 minute walk away. Although this fancy Chinese spot isn’t our favourite in London, the xiao long bao and Singapore noodles are pretty damn good, and also, exactly what you need.
Galleries are largely peaceful places. London is largely not. So if you’re looking for a restaurant that will maintain your thoughtful and zen-like state, then you should be heading to Lorne for some mackerel tartare, or some stuffed courgette flowers. This restaurant bills itself as ‘modern British’ - so expect artfully delicate (but flavour-filled) plates of meat and fish, in a light and plant-filled room that whispers: ‘exhale’.
The science museum / victoria & albert museum / the natural history museum
We don’t know who Muriel is, but we imagine she bakes fresh fruit scones daily, exclusively wears Cath Kidston prints, and refers to everyone she knows as ‘lovely’. This all-day bistro has got you covered whether you’re after banana and ricotta pancakes at 8am, afternoon scones between museums, or a big burger and G&T come dark. It also works just as well for a coffee as for a sit-down situation.
Spending a collective £46 on postcards and toy dinosaurs wasn’t in your plan for the day. Don’t worry, brontosauruses are cute, we understand. Head for cheap and cheerful Italian spot, Pappa Roma. Five minutes from South Kensington station, this place is a proper charmer, with mosaic tiling, rustic tables, and pictures of people’s grandparents on the walls. Whether you go for one of their wood-fired pizzas or their lasagne, you can easily come here and leave only twenty quid lighter.
Yashin Ocean House is a sophisticated Japanese spot that has more theatre than an exhibition on Shakespeare. The tuna comes with truffle. The sashimi comes covered in caviar. And there’s a giant horse in the dining room that also happens to be a lamp. Although a meal here can set you back a couple of hundred pounds, it’s worth it for all of the dry ice, beautiful counter seating, and some of the best sushi in London.
Maggie Jones’s is about as close you can get to being a museum whilst still being a restaurant. Open for over 40 years, it’s full of old knick-knacks, portraits of dead people, and has a history involving the royal family, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuffy. This place serves some truly excellent British food, fresh game, and an apple crumble we regularly contemplate writing love letters to. Whether you come by for lunch or a full-blown romantic candlelit dinner, their fish pie will never let you down.
Excellent architecture and memorable style. If you think we’re talking about the Design Museum, then think again. We’re talking about Melabes’ schnitzel pita. It’s excellent. On Kensington High Street, this mediterranean restaurant has a marble open kitchen that serves great small plates that come with gravy boats of greek yogurt, aioli, and hummus. At lunchtime, come by for their £5.95 pita lunch deals at the bar, and in the evening go all out on the small plates in one of the leather booths.
Dishoom is the kind of restaurant that works for a lot of occasions, and that includes group hangs, date nights, and yes, sorting out a serious lamb chop craving after a trip to the Design Museum. Their huge all-day Kensington spot looks a lot like a grand train station with big red booths and old school Bombay portraits on the walls. You can expect dishes like prawn koliwada, paneer pineapple tikka, and slow-cooked biryanis. You can also expect queues, but there is a prohibition-style cocktail bar where you can wait with one of their martinis.
You’ve just spent six hours - yes, six - at The British Museum with your uncle because it was either that or five-and-a-half hours of silence after you’ve checked in on their latest Top Gear opinions. Head for the excitement of Abeno, an okonomiyaki specialist spot with some great Japanese dishes they cook on a hot plate at your table. That’s right, a meal, and a show. They serve everything from yaki gyoza, prawn soba, kakiage tempura, and a cottage pie yaki that deserves a place in our favourite fictional museum, The Centre Of Genius Food Combinations.
We love the British Museum. Mostly because it’s the perfect cover story for our addiction to Master Wei’s cold liangpi noodles. Honestly, at this point everyone close to us thinks that we’ve developed a slightly manic passion for coins from the Roman empire. No. Master Wei is a casual Xi’anese speciality spot that serves some of the best Chinese food in London and the best part is that everything from those liangpi noodles to the beef biang biang noodles are completely affordable.
If Noble Rot was an exhibition, it would be that one you leave with a gallant smile, life changed for the better, and a profound need to text your parents that you understand what they meant when you were 17. This wine bar and restaurant in Bloomsbury is our highest rated spot for a reason, and whether you stop by for a glass of wine and some snacks or for a three course meal, you’re guaranteed an excellent time. And more importantly, some excellent bread.
THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS
The courtyard of the RA is without doubt one of the most beautiful places in London. But, problematically, you’re not able to get unlimited amounts of free bread here. And because of that, we have no choice but to award first prize in the inaugural (and just invented) Infatuation Bread and Architecture Award to Brasserie Zédel. This enormous and grand French brasserie is one of our favourite places in London, and their excessive bread supply and super-affordable prix fixe menus only emphasise this. When in doubt, always head to Zédel.
As well as sounding like a modern water brand fronted by Derek Zoolander, Aquavit is also a very nice Nordic fine dining spot in St. James’s that’s under ten minutes from the RA. Don’t let its fine dining status put you off, this place is actually perfectly comfortable and there’s also a set lunch menu for under £30. Though, if you ask us, getting a few bits from the smorgasbord - gravlax, pickled vegetables, and paté - is the way to do it.
If you’re spending the day somewhere that has ‘Royal’ in the name, then it’s only right that you treat yourself accordingly when it comes to eating before or afterwards. Although Pollen Street Social is a fine dining restaurant, it’s not of the overly fancy Dan variety. In fact, their £40 set lunch menu is incredible value for the quality (and amount) of food you get. Just remember after leaving: you’re not actually royalty.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY & THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
You just saw a toddler lick a 700 year old painting. To say it was distressing would be an understatement. You need wine and you need it now. Old school seafood spot J Sheekey is an excellent spot for a glass of wine and, shockingly, for some seafood, especially if you get involved in their shellfish. This place also has a real looker of an outdoor terrace, and, sure, it’s expensive, but splitting their £20 fish pie is totally reasonable.
You can watch Bancone make their pasta in the window of this Covent Garden spot. Think of it as like being at the gallery but with more salivating and less questioning of whether you really wanted to see that many naked torsos in one day. Just up from Trafalgar Square, this place has a short menu of fresh pasta dishes that are as affordable as they are tasty. Be warned, it gets busy, so book ahead.
You’ll probably have a similar reaction to the food at Scully as you would to actual pieces of art. It’s colourful. It’s innovative. And it might take a second to understand, but once you do, you’ll like it. Don’t be fooled by the outside of this St James’s spot - it might look a bit too glossy and slightly soulless, but a few bites of their food and you’ll never underestimate a piece of charred pumpkin again. We like this place best in the evening, so our game plan would be to come here to chase all that culture with some drinks and lots of chickpeas.
The Photographers' gallery
If there was a photo series from Dum Biryani then it would like feature quite a few blurry shots. Not because of poor camerawork. Or because of an unsteady hand. But, more likely, because they’ll be more than a few dal stains on the lens. That’s because Dum Biryani is a restaurant you want to get involved with: piling mutton fry onto a brioche bun, spooning biryani (crust and all) onto some poppadom. This Indian spot is so comfortable and delicious, it’s an easy choice.
What with its spacious and futuristic room, bright fermented vegetables, and multicoloured tomatoes, everything about Rovi is kind of picture perfect. It’s one of the best restaurants you can go to in London, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Greyhound Cafe is clearly a restaurant that’s very concerned with its own looks. Once you get past the lookbook-style menu and sometimes diva-like service, there are some extremely solid plates of Thai food to eat here. The street-style duck noodle soup is a spiced winter warmer, and the ribeye satay is seriously tasty. Just make sure to load up on the savoury stuff and skip the Happy Toast.
Wow. You never knew your friend was an expert on absolutely everything that has ever existed, ever. But it turns out ten minutes at an exhibition and apparently, they are. Sigh. Head for St. John, who are actual experts in nose to tail dining. No really, they are. This classic establishment in Clerkenwell is all about stark white walls, white table cloths, and genuinely exceptional British food. Whether you go for some bone marrow on toast, a trotter and pheasant pie, a black velvet, or all three, you’re guaranteed an excellent meal.
We’re not saying that the Barbican looks like Dr Evil’s 21st century castle. But we’re not not saying that. After spending several hours in a brutalist estate you might need a respite in the form of Bad Egg. It’s a great all-day spot serving...
You took that person you started dating a couple months back to the Barbican to show them your cultured side. Next, take them to Luca to show them your peak restaurant knowledge side. This grown-up Italian spot in Clerkenwell is expensive, but if you sit at the bar with their pork sausage ragu rigatoni, parmesan fries, and some orange wine, it’s completely worth it. Get involved in the lemon tart too.