When I first moved to London, I was obsessed with the city’s museums. Some of the best museums in the world are here, and locals and visitors are overwhelmed with options for even the most niche of interests. But one thing I discovered only after my first trips to see some of the city’s top collections is that in addition to amazing art, artifacts, and objects, there are some great restaurants in many of the museums. After nearly 8 years of exploring, today I bring you A Lady in London’s guide to the 8 best museum cafes in London.
The V&A has always been my favorite museum in London, and when I discovered its cafe I fell even more in love with it. The intricate designs on the central columns, sparkling globe chandeliers, and beautiful stained glass windows are enough to keep me away from even the best exhibitions (and the V&A has some of the best in London!).
Serpentine Sackler Gallery
I’m a fan of anything designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and The Magazine restaurant at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is firmly on my list of the best museum cafes in London. The curves on the roof first drew me in through sheer curiosity, and the space itself wins me over every time.
I went to the Royal Academy on Piccadilly a million times before I ever knew The Keeper’s House restaurant existed. But the intimate space with its soothing green walls and classical casts is a great place for a peaceful lunch away from the bustle of central London. The service can be spotty, but the overall experience is usually good. The Keeper’s Garden opens up in the warmer months, too.
Burgh House & Hampstead Museum
Up in Hampstead, most people walk right by Burgh House without realizing it’s a museum. But the unassuming building is fronted by a gorgeous garden full of secluded little tables and chairs. The Buttery Cafe at Burgh House is the perfect place for weekend breakfast or a cup of tea in the afternoon. I used to live right down the street, and I popped over to read a book on sunny days whenever I had the chance!
Not far from Burgh House, Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath has a great outdoor cafe in front of its lush sprawling lawns. The food is cafeteria-style and can be a bit uninspiring, but it’s the perfect place to relax over a cuppa after a long walk through one of London’s biggest and most beautiful parks. Keep an eye out for local celebrities while you’re there, too!
Tate Britain often takes a back seat to its modern counterpart across the Thames, but its restaurant certainly doesn’t. The Rex Whistler restaurant not only has good food and one of the most impressive wine lists of any museum cafe in London (and many of the city’s restaurants, too), but also a great space with tables surrounded by the specially commissioned mural from 1927 entitled The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats. It recounts the journey of a group of seven people who set out in search of exotic game!
I don’t know how I managed to visit the National Gallery so many times without even realizing it had a restaurant, but I finally discovered The National Cafe and I’m glad I did. It has a modern feel, with pink chairs and tall windows that let lots of natural light through. A pre-museum breakfast is a great way to start a day of gallery-going.
Most people know the British Museum for the antiquities, but the restaurant in the stunning Great Court is another reason to visit. Even if it’s just to take a break after a long morning of exploring the Egyptian treasures or marveling at the Rosetta Stone, the restaurant is an ideal place to soak up the atmosphere of the museum and admire Norman Foster’s amazing architecture.
How about you? What do you think are the best museum cafes in London?