Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurant: Tate Gallery, National Gallery and V&A

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurant: Tate Gallery, National Gallery and V&A

Article excerpt

THE ART gallery restaurant is a pleasing idea. To eat and drink in an agreeably decorated room while visiting an exhibition or popping in to meet a friend for lunch, then looking at a painting or two, is an attractive idea. Both the Tate, with its restaurant decorated with splendid Neo-Romantic murals by Rex Whistler, and the National Gallery's restaurant in the new Sainsbury wing, with its rather less successful frescoes by Paula Rego, exude an air of relaxed enjoyment.

At the V&A, however, there is now an admission of L5, so that if you wish to lunch in the self-service restaurant without inspecting the exhibits, you will still have to pay a swingeing charge. This, according to the V&A's head of public services, Robin Cole-Hamilton, is because the restaurant is in the far corner of the building, and customers might be tempted to linger in the galleries, without charge, on their way to or from it. He agrees this is unsatisfactory and deters people from using the restaurant, and claims the management are working on a scheme to give the restaurant its own entrance from Exhibition Road.

Meanwhile, it is clearly only worth using the V&A's pleasant cafeteria if one wants to spend L5 to see an exhibition. On my visit it is fair to say that The Cutting Edge: Fifty Years of British Fashion was keeping the restaurant satisfactorily busy. But the principle of payment for admission to one of our great national museums remains a highly dubious one and ought to be resisted.

My visit to the Tate's restaurant was with The Spectator's food expert and leading carnivore Digby Anderson and the artist Adrian George, who was there to add Digby's title sketch as part of The Spectator's new policy of publishing drawings of contributors - but only of those of us who write about food. Lunch was a lively affair with much appreciation of the Tate's admirable and renowned wine list, which caused Digby to have second thoughts about his plan not to drink with the meal.

We thus started with an excellent halfbottle of Puligny-Montrachet, and Digby and I began our meal with some first-class smoked cod's roe, served properly unadorned, but accompanied by a small glass of manzanilla included in the price of L6.10. Adrian decided to try the two-course set lunch at L14.95, but his starter of cream of onion soup with soft herbs was a setback, being disagreeably sweet, as if flavoured with apple. His main course of confit duck leg with lentils and chilli was delicious.

Perhaps predictably, Digby ordered grilled rib-eye of Scotch beef, served rare as requested, with good fresh chips. His only complaint was that the Tate used bottled mustard rather than making its own. …

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