Fine dining and fine art collide at Tate Britain's famous Rex Whistler restaurant
Where? Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG (020 7887 8825, www.tate.org.uk)
A good place for a quick snack in-between the galleries, then? Forget what’s on the walls, the dishes here are works of art themselves and deserve plenty of time to be enjoyed. On our visit, we spent twice as long eating as we did perusing the collections upstairs.
So, it’s Whistler while you eat, rather than whistle while you work! Something like that, although for those of you who didn’t study history of art at university, Rex Whistler is the artist who painted the glorious mural around the restaurant’s walls, back in 1927. Named The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, it manages to encompass traditional English countryside scenes, tropical jungles, Rome’s ancient chariots and even a few men on bikes.
So what’s on the menu?A fabulous mix of British favourites, with quirky twists. A starter of Colchester oyster gratin, for instance, comes served with Cumbrian bacon, while the vegetarian main of root vegetable and sweet potato crumble comes served with its own pot of savoury custard! There are daily specials, too, including a delicious roast on Sundays, while the set menus are an inexpensive way to sample the artistic fare.
And to drink? The wine list at the Tate is a thing of beauty and worthy of far more words than this page has room for. Suffice to say, sommelier Hamish Anderson, who buys wines for all the Tate’s various restaurants and bars, really knows his stuff. Whether you have £5 or £50 to spend (or £500 for that matter), there’s a wealth of choice, with plenty available to buy by the glass. If you get a little overwhelmed by the wine menu (which is well in excess of 50 pages long), stick to the three-page Sommelier’s Recommendations list, which covers whites, reds and roses, with everything available both by the glass and bottle. Hic!
Sounds like a fabulous evening. Not quite. At the moment, the restaurant is only open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. However, there are special Late at Tate nights, on the first Friday of every month, where a five-course meal, with matching wines, costs £60 per person, including all food, drinks, water and service. Unsurprisingly, tables on these evenings get booked weeks if not months in advance, so be sure to get your name down early. (Call 020 7887 8825 for more information and to book.)
Need to know: The Rex Whistler restaurant is open for breakfast Saturday and Sunday 10am–11.30am and for lunch seven days a week from 11.30am–3pm. Afternoon tea is served Monday to Sunday 3.15-5pm.