While visiting your favourite museum or gallery can be the perfect day out, feeding your brain with culture, interesting facts and art, it can also be exhausting work, leaving you feeling a little peckish, to say the least.
But the humble museum canteen, once a saviour offering gallery-goers a simple sandwich on which to munch pre- or post-exhibition, now finds itself outranked.
It's no surprise that when looking for the next location in which to branch out, chefs are opting for cultural spaces, with those visiting a museum or gallery for the day able to refuel with a proper sit-down meal.
It's not as though museum cafés were ever economically efficient, with even just a cup of weak tea and a sliver of cake setting you back near to the cost of your actual entry ticket.
So if you're going to spend this kind of money on something you could grab from the local supermarket, you might as well shell out a little more for a meal catered by a renowned chef, or at a new branch of your favourite restaurant.
While London museums may have ample restaurants on their doorstep, a restaurant inside the same building you've just visited is sure to put your mind at ease – particularly if you've been traipsing round with children. Outside the capital, convenience of location is just as much of a factor, if not more so, when deciding where to eat after an exhibition.
Fans of east London's Rochelle Canteen were left saddened by the closure of the restaurant's branch at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Margot Henderson's popular eatery enjoyed three years catering for exhibition-goers and allowing them to swap a cheese sandwich for crispy pig's cheek or courgette and spiced lentils (among other famed dishes).
Whether you're looking for a quick bite to eat or a more lengthy dining affair upon which to end a rather pleasant day out, we've rounded up the best museum and gallery restaurants across the UK.
Best restaurants in museums and galleries for 2022
José Pizarro at the Royal Academy, London
José's first central London restaurant has taken over the beautiful Senate Room, located on the first floor of the Burlington Gardens museum. With a variety of set menus from which to choose, both art and food lovers can feast upon classic dishes such as seasonable vegetable paella, pickled white anchovies, slow-cooked chorizo in red wine and cod in a traditional Catalan sauce.
Royal Academy of Arts, 6 Burlington Gardens, London, W1S 3ET; 020 7300 5912; josepizarro.com
Mathilde’s Cafe at Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere
Nestled in the Lake District, Mathilde's Cafe at Heaton Cooper Studio offers a menu of Scandinavian-inspired dishes that will feed your soul as much as the art does. An homage to Cooper's Norwegian wife Mathilde, visitors can sample the likes of Krakauer hot dogs with blackberry ketchup or loaded fries with goat's cheese. There is also a selection of smørrebrød (open sandwiches signature to Denmark, Sweden and Norway) on the menu featuring courgette, asparagus and ricotta; heritage tomatoes and capers; smoked ham hock and pickled kohlrabi and salmon gravlax with horseradish.
Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere, Ambleside LA22 9SX; 015394 35280; heatoncooper.co.uk
Townsend at the Whitechapel Gallery, London
Nick Gilkinson's modern British dining room is the place to go if you're looking for innovative, seasonal dishes post-gallery visit in east London. With food from head chef Chris Shaw (ex-Petersham Nurseries and BAO), guests can enjoy a daily-changing menu focusing on local British produce as well as an extensive wine list to round off your visit. Favourites on the menu include fried guinea fowl with honey and red Leicester croquettes.
77-82 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX; 020 7522 7896; townsendrestaurant.co.uk
Barletta at Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent
While Margate is bustling with up-and-coming restaurants, we still recommend you try Barletta after visiting the Turner Contemporary. The truffle mushroom and Coolea cheese gougères are ridiculously more-ish, while the confit lamb with pickled radishes and anchovy and potato, celeriac and Ogleshield gratin also make excellent choices. Drinks can also be enjoyed on the roof.
Turner Contemporary, Margate CT9 1HG; 07928 651439; barletta.co.uk
Garden Café at the Garden Museum, London
A hidden gem in south London, the Garden Café boasts a daily-changing menu with gorgeous dishes from chefs Harry Kaufman and George Ryle, including mackerel with watercress and horseradish and borlotti beans with rainbow chard and sheep's ricotta. You can finish off your meal with the likes of an apricot and hazelnut tart with crème fraîche or a classic cheese plate.
The Garden Museum, 5 Lambeth Palace Rd, London SE1 7LB; 020 3640 9322; gardenmuseum.org.uk
The Bistro at the Black Watch Castle and Museum, Perth, Scotland
Once you're done immersing yourself in the history of the Black Watch it's time to treat yourself to a good meal in the castle museum's bistro. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner during the summer months, there's plenty to tuck into after a long day of learning. The award-winning bistro offers both al fresco and indoor dining, with its seasonal menus offering dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties, Scottish smoked salmon risotto, and chicken and chorizo linguine. Perhaps worth scheduling a museum visit alone to feast upon these.
Hay Street The Black Watch Castle & Museum, Perth PH1 5HR; 01738 638152; theblackwatch.co.uk
Ochre at the National Gallery, London
Though there are impressive views over Trafalgar Square from the entire dining room, the food at Ochre is also noteworthy. With small plates such as Saddleback pork and Westcombe cheddar croquettes and beetroot and macadamia 'ricotta', followed by a fried hake sandwich or saffron fettucine, this restaurant excels across the board.
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN; 020 7747 2525; ochre.london
The Mess at Messums, Tisbury, Wiltshire
When visiting this gallery and art centre in Wiltshire there's more than a soggy sandwich waiting for you at the end. In addition to freshly-baked cakes and croissants, dishes such as beef empanadas and courgette ceviche are also on the menu. Slow-cooked Wiltshire lamb also makes an appearance, complemented by curried cauliflower salad and red cabbage and fennel slaw.
Place Farm, Court St, Tisbury, Salisbury SP3 6LW; 01747 445042; messumswiltshire.com
The Garden Cafe at Hospitalfield House, Scotland
Hopitalfield’s new Garden Café is the latest addition to the east of Scotland’s burgeoning culinary scene. The newly-opened café offers guests a simple yet delicious seasonally evolving menu, featuring dishes such as a toasted buckwheat, brown lentil, kale and lemon broth; Angus beef koftas, jewelled rice salad with caraway seed flatbread; and beetroot, black bean and feta pie. Head chef Simon Brown uses locally-produced meats and smoked fish and artisan bread in his recipes, and the coffee is locally roasted in Arbroath.
Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, Angus, Scotland, DD11 2NH; 01241 656124; hospitalfield.org.uk
Osteria at the Barbican Centre, London
When dining at Osteria, sit at a table overlooking the Barbican Centre and enjoy an Italian feast. Start off with creamy burrata and seared scallops before moving on to steaming bowls of pasta, with pan-fried gnocchi and braised rabbit ragu on the menu. If you're really hungry, follow that with monkfish tail with crispy cheek or a pork cutlet with aubergine and miso purée, before finishing off with Osteria’s indulgent tiramisu.
Barbican Centre, Silk St, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS; 020 7588 3008; osterialondon.co.uk
Roth Bar & Grill at Hauser & Wirth, Bruton, Somerset
A slightly different location to most galleries and their restaurants, Roth Bar and Grill is situated in a converted cow shed on this working farm in Bruton. With a menu that champions local produce, all meat and fresh vegetables come from the farm and its kitchen garden, featuring Aberdeen Angus beef aged for up to 60 days in the farm's salt room, as well as Lleyn lamb and Oxford Sandy and Black pork. Add charred hipsi cabbage with miso as a side.
Hauser & Wirth, Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton BA10 0NL; 01749 814700; rothbarandgrill.co.uk
The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
With a menu which supports Scottish independent suppliers, culture-seekers can enjoy steaming bowls of cullen skink (a smoked haddock, leek, potato and cream soup) and even a Sunday roast should you pay your visit on the weekend. The restaurant's signature Aberdeen 'butteries' are also not to be missed (particularly the ham, cheese and chilli), made for the eatery by patisserie Au Gourmand.
The Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL; 0131 225 1550 ; contini.com
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