Following a much anticipated expansion by David Chipperfield Architects, the Royal Academy of Arts has now elevated its food and beverage offering with the new Royal Academy Café designed by two young architects, Charlotte McCarthy of LOT and Ben Masterton-Smith of Transit Studio, and operated by restaurateur Oliver Peyton.

Occupying the ground floor space at Burlington House, the café’s walls, which are adorned with historical murals by Royal Academicians, have informed the new interior design with its playful palette – in particular, Leonard Rosoman’s Upstairs and Downstairs, which depicts crowds at the RA Summer Exhibition alongside a life drawing session at the RA schools. As a result, a bright orange has found its way onto the serving stations, which recall market stalls, while a sharp teal is replicated throughout the café counter.

The two architects have worked on many of London’s much-loved hospitality venues in their previous roles, among them the Sea Containers Hotel and Duddell’s, and here their expertise is put to excellent use. The grandeur of the building’s coffered ceilings, arched windows and mahogany parquet flooring – all carefully refurbished – have been deftly tempered with spindleback chairs and clean-lined banquettes in cheery hues of green and red. 

The centrepieces are a series of custom-made tables, featuring geometric slabs of Italian terrazzo and marble, created in the same design language; each accommodates at least six guests by way of encouraging communal interaction. Small Bicoca table lamps by Spanish manufacturer Marset, dotted throughout the space complement the minimal globe lights suspended above.

The overall atmosphere is dynamic and lively, suited to both quick coffees and leisurely lunches, and destined to make the RA more of a social hub than ever before. In the summer months, the café extends to the RA courtyard, featuring a kiosk clad in blue mirror stainless steel, and colourful seating among enamel-splattered tabletops that offer perfect perches for people-watching. §