London gallery restaurants for art-filled dining

Our design-led pick of the best restaurants in galleries, museums, theatres and art spaces offer some of the most striking settings for meals in the capital.

Sessions Arts Club
(Image credit: Sessions Arts Club)

Two of London’s greatest creative scenes, art and food, come together in its best gallery restaurants – whether notable dining spots set within art galleries, museums and other creative spaces, or standout eateries that double as art destinations in their own right. At both, guests are treated to a combination of striking surroundings and fine food.

By their very nature, London’s restaurants in art galleries and museums tend to have good design at their core. With their creative and cultural clout comes strong appeal, so many have attracted top chefs, with the likes of José Pizarro taking up the mantle at the Royal Academy and Richard Corrigan breathing life into the dining room at the National Gallery. If you’re after something a little more low-key, there’s an unbeatable magic about The Garden Museum Café with its lush courtyard location.

Our celebration of art-fuelled dining spaces also extends to a mural-covered pub (The Audley), a restaurant inside a creative hub, exhibition space and store (Cycene at the Blue Mountain School), and beyond.

With something for every mood and meal, here are our vetted favourites for long lunches followed by the indulgence of a stroll around a world-class exhibition, or the chance to simply soak up the restaurant’s own artworks.

Looking for the buzziest place to eat? Check out the new London restaurants to book now.

Garden Café at the Garden Museum, Vauxhall

Garden Cafe

(Image credit: Garden Cafe)

Managing an under-the-radar status despite critical acclaim, the Garden Café profits from its quiet location south of the river and feels like a proper hidden gem. This is in part due to its unique setting that feels a million miles away from London as you know it. Once inside, you’ll find a clean, bright aesthetic with expansive windows that look onto an ancient courtyard filled with tombs from the adjoining deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth and verdant planting that celebrates rare species.

All of this is the backdrop to seasonal plates from Myles Donaldson, who was previously head chef at Noble Rot. Here, he’s freshened things up using colourful produce and best-of-British fish, meat and game. In summer, expect beautiful salads and loose interpretations of Mediterranean favourites, like rose veal with polenta and sage, while winter brings soups and warming old-school puds.

The museum itself is worth a visit before or after your meal, for anyone interested in the place British garden design holds in our lives.

Open for lunch every day, and dinner Tuesday-Friday

5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB,

Sessions Arts Club, Clerkenwell

Sessions Arts Club

(Image credit: Sessions Arts Club)

Everything about eating at Sessions Arts Club makes it feel like a performance. There are the staff – who are frequently actors or painters too – in uniforms designed by Faye Toogood that cut exacting silhouettes, the jolly plates of food, and the crisp linens. And then there are the surroundings.

The restaurant’s home is an old judges' dining room at Sessions House. To bring it up to date, the owners – restaurateur Jon Spiteri, artist Jonny Gent and architect Russell Potter – embraced the building’s legacy. The distressed walls, buffed back to reveal layer upon layer of paint, nod to its years of use, and beautiful original mouldings, architraves and cornicing have been lovingly restored to create natural recesses for the ever-rotating artworks on display.

It’s worth checking for regular special dinners or creative evenings, as the thing about Sessions Arts Club is nothing stays the same for long. With that in mind, there’s always a new excuse to visit and something creative to get involved with while you enjoy plates of elegantly restrained food like lamb with turnips and watercress or clams with artichokes and borlotti beans.

Open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner Monday-Saturday

24 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0NA,

José Pizarro at the RA, Piccadilly

José Pizarro

(Image credit: José Pizarro)

Spanish chef José Pizarro’s Royal Academy of Arts restaurant has all his usual hallmarks: a relaxed ambiance; a menu where you want to try one of everything; and stripped-back but elegant interior design.

Filled with creative types, this is as much a destination for people-watching as it is long lunches (it closes at 6pm). Once settled into one of the banquettes or squashy blue leather chairs, you’ll face the dilemma of going for tried and tested favourites – like pan con tomate or tortilla de patatas – or plumping for something a little more adventurous via combinations like octopus with tenderstem broccoli, coriander, mint and parsley sauce or slow-cooked chorizo in red wine with quince. Whichever way you sway, the solid cooking always delivers.

Housed in the RA’s vast Senate Room, there’s a sense of occasion here, making it the perfect prelude to an afternoon of enjoying the world-class curations in the surrounding spaces.

Open for lunch and early dinner Tuesday-Sunday

6 Burlington Gardens, W1S 3ET,

The Portrait

(Image credit: The Portrait)

With his knack for creating restaurants that people feel immediately at home in, Richard Corrigan was the natural choice for a partnership at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a space that needs to cater for people from far and wide if it’s to succeed – and The Portrait offers everyone an instant sense of belonging.

Here you’ll find the chef’s signature style in full flight, with a menu made from the best of British and Irish produce. His playful twists reinvent age-old recipes with sparkling results. Favourites run from beer-battered cod with hot tartare to fillet of beef with spinach and peppercorn sauce. Chips and mash are present and correct – which feels fitting – and there’s a set menu that offers two courses of some of central London’s best food for £34, with unbelievable views of Trafalgar Square to boot. Or simply stop in for a drink; whichever way you cut it we imagine you’ll be pleased you made the trip.

Design-wise, it’s all about the views, backdropped by a stripped-back aesthetic and crisply laid tables. Downstairs, with the gallery celebrating its bicentenary in 2024, take advantage of the jam-packed schedule of events.

Open for lunch every day, and dinner Wednesday-Saturday

St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE,

Spring at Somerset House The Strand

Spring restaurant at Somerset House

(Image credit: Spring)

At the heart of London’s restaurant landscape, where the next shiny thing can easily dominate the spotlight, Spring’s shine has never dulled with its impressively consistent pulling power. This is in part due to the dining room – which is beautifully furnished with slabs of marble, panelling and pastel pink bench seating – but mainly can be attributed to Skye Gyngell. Her knack for unfussy but exacting food keeps the dining room fully booked most nights of the week.

The main menu is staunchly seasonal and often features a pasta dish plus plenty of mains that make the most of British-grown goods and prime cuts or catches, like fillet of beef or wild sea bass. For those who have eco-credentials that align with Gyngell’s (she is passionate about sustainability, having made the restaurant the first single-use plastic-free restaurant in London, in 2019) might like the now-iconic scrap menu, which was launched in 2016, and offers three courses of food made from excess, trim and waste that would have otherwise been discarded while making the main menu.

Somerset House houses a rich rotation of exhibitions, as well as summer cinema sessions, fairs such as the recent Photo London 2024, and performances, and is home to design incubator Makerversity.

Open for lunch Tuesday-Friday and for dinner Tuesday-Saturday

Lancaster Place, WC2R 1LA,

Cycene at The Blue Mountain School

Cycene restaurant at Blue Mountain School

(Image credit: Blue Mountain School)

Shoreditch concept store Blue Mountain School opened its restaurant in collaboration with chef Theo Clench back in 2022. Called Cycene, the two-floor space is designed to feel like dining in a private home, with interiors in keeping with the space’s collection of one-of-a-kind ceramics, furniture and garments.

The nine-course menu marries influences from Clench’s travels, especially East Asia and Australia, with a particular emphasis on seafood. Dishes flex with the seasons, but might include things like mackerel with radish and shisho; cavatelli, sea urchin and kinome; as well as scallop with brown butter and schrenkii.

With its listening room, library, studio and gallery, Blue Mountain School is a multi-faceted creative space with plenty to offer the curious.

Open for lunch Fridays and Saturdays, and dinner Tuesday-Saturday

9 Chance Street, E2 7JB,

Mount Street Restaurant and The Audley

Interiors on Mount Street Restaurant in London

(Image credit: Simon Brown)

The Audley pub and upstairs Mount St Restaurant are two artfully designed dining destinations in Mayfair from Artfarm, the hospitality and development company founded in 2014 by gallerists Manuela and Iwan Wirth.

The Audley offers three distinct, art-led experiences: a street-level public house; the first-floor Mount St Restaurant; and four spaces on the upper three floors that are available for private hire. Remarkable site-specific artworks abound throughout the entire space, including Phyllida Barlow’s ceiling installation in the pub, Rashid Johnson’s floor mosaic in the Mount St Restaurant, and Anj Smith’s ceiling fresco which occupies the top-floor turret.

The Mount St Restaurant offers a refined classic-contemporary fusion menu drawing inspiration from London's culinary history, while downstairs the bar supplies a sophisticated twist on pub grub.

Open for breakfast through dinner Monday-Saturday, closing at 4pm Sundays

41-43 Mount Street, W1K 2RX,

Ochre at The National Gallery, one of London’s best gallery restaurants

(Image credit: TBC)

Located in the National Gallery, Ochre is a contemporary European restaurant from the founders of Muriel’s Kitchen. Serving all day – from brunch to afternoon tea and dinner – Ochre places a special focus on the best of locally sourced British produce. Notable dishes include saddleback pork and Westcombe Cheddar croquettes with wild nettle pesto and aged parmesan; saffron fettuccine with Indian spiced ricotta; and English mussels with Cornish cider. We recommend trying the pre-fixe menu.

The space’s warm and casually elegant design by Gergei Erdei makes it an ideal spot for an afternoon business lunch or an evening dinner with friends.

As with The Portrait, above, this is within a very short stroll of some of the world’s most notable artworks, definitely worth a browse if time allows.

Open for lunch and early dinners Sunday-Wednesday, and later dinners Thursday-Saturday

Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN,

Toklas at 180 The Strand, the Strand

Toklas at 180 The Strand, one of London's best gallery restaurants

(Image credit: TBC)

When it opened, Toklas quickly became one of the most celebrated new restaurants in London. This understated Mediterranean spot at 180 The Strand has been created by the founders of Frieze. The laid-back but buzzy atmosphere is cajoled along nicely with the addition of midcentury furniture and walls covered in prints, posters and original artwork that lend a convivial vibe.

Toklas’ simple dishes are bursting with flavour – think octopus with piattoni beans and ratte potatoes; courgette salad with radish, pecorino and almond; and buffalo mozzarella, with peas, broad beans and mint.

For a dose of culture outside of the dining room, 180 Studios delivers space for emerging creatives to exhibit their pieces or performances. The ideal place to take a wander and get ahead of the crowd on up-and-coming stars in the arts world.

Open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday and dinner Monday-Saturday

1 Surrey Street, WC2R 2ND,

Townsend at the Whitechapel Gallery

(Image credit: TBC)

Townsend at the Whitechapel Gallery is a modern British dining room in London’s East End led by head chef Chris Shaw. The rotating menu features highlights such as braised venison shoulder with crushed swede; wild mushrooms on toast with hen’s egg and thyme; and cloud-like cheesecake with poached plums.

Burgundy leather booths and wood-panelled walls give the space a cosy, secluded feeling, making it a welcome respite from the bustle of the city outside.

Open for lunch Tuesday-Sunday and dinner Wednesday-Saturday

77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX,

Rosie Conroy is a food journalist, editor and stylist with over a decade's experience writing for the likes of The Independent, Conde Nast Traveller, Square Meal and Wallpaper*. Born in Scotland, Rosie is also an experienced recipe developer, devising and testing meals for magazines. 

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