The National Gallery – Sorolla menu at The National Cafe

London is full of art museums and one of the most famous is The National Gallery set within Trafalgar Square. However did you know that The National Gallery has three eateries one being an Espresso Bar, The National Gallery Café and The National Dine restaurant.

I was invited down on a complimentary basis along with some members of Love Pop Ups London to experience an evening at The National Gallery Café to dine on a special set menu of Spanish food.

We were treated to a three course set menu that has been inspired on the art work of Sorolla which is currently on exhibit at The National Gallery until 7th July in which the menu will also change to reflect the new art by the artist which next pop ups.

The National Gallery

The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.

It’s collection belongs to the government on behalf of the British public, and entry to the main collection is free of charge. It is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unlike comparable museums in continental Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalising an existing royal or princely art collection.  It came into being when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein in 1824.  After that initial purchase the Gallery was shaped mainly by its early directors, notably Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, and by private donations, which today account for two-thirds of the collection.  The collection is small compared with many European national galleries, but encyclopaedic in scope; most major developments in Western painting “from Giotto to Cézanne” are represented with important works. It used to be claimed that this was one of the few national galleries that had all its works on permanent exhibition, but this is no longer the case.

The present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins from 1832 to 1838.  Only the façade onto Trafalgar Square remains essentially unchanged from this time, as the building has been expanded piecemeal throughout its history.  Wilkins’s building was often criticised for the perceived weaknesses of its design and for its lack of space; the latter problem led to the establishment of the Tate Gallery for British art in 1897.

The Sainsbury Wing, an extension to the west by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, is a notable example of Postmodernist architecture in Britain.  The current Director of the National Gallery is Gabriele Finaldi.

The Gallery is open daily: 10am–6pm with a late night till 9pm on Friday

Current exhibition

Sorolla

Throughout the year two or three exhibitions from artists are put up in an area of the National Gallery.  

At present artist ‘Sorolla: Master of Light’ is being exhibited at the art gallery. This is a first UK exhibition of Spain’s Impressionist, Sorolla, in over a century but who is Sorolla you might be asking?

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s (1863–1923)  is best known as the Master of Light for his iridescent canvases which are a mix of portraits, landscapes and genre scenes of Spanish life.

Most of his work is of vivid seascapes, garden views, and bather scenes for which he is most renowned for.

The exhibition at The National Gallery features 58 works spanning Sorolla’s career, many of which are travelling from private collections and from afar.

Discover his work and take yourself on a journey with Sorolla but be quick as this exhibition which is held in the Sainsbury Wing and will be ending on 7th July 2019.

Standard tickets cost from £14-£18 depending on whether you book online.

Eating within The National Gallery

Apart from the art displayed within The National Gallery you can dine within one of their three dining establishments.

Espresso Bar

The Espresso Bar provides the perfect place to plan your route around the Gallery over a coffee and slice of cake.

Choose from a selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches, as well as a full range of hot and cold drinks.

Opening times: Daily 10am–5.30pm, Friday 10am–8.45pm

The National Café

With a modern British and European menu, The National Café offers all-day dining, from hearty breakfasts to evening meals, as well as a self-service café.

The head chef is passionate about using quality British ingredients which are sourced from artisan producers.

With the location being in Trafalgar Square it is an ideal choice for a breakfast, lunch, quick pre-theatre meal or dinner taking you away from the hustle and bustle of London shoppers and sightseers.

An afternoon tea at The National Gallery Cafe is also a great choice to escape London which you can nibble on an array of sandwiches, cakes and sip on sparkling wine.

The restaurant also offers a Grab and Go self-service café open from 8am to 6pm, offering coffee, tea and a superb selection of freshly made sandwiches, salads and indulgent cakes – perfect for those on the go.

The National Café menu

Opening times: Monday to Thursday 10am–8.30pm, Friday 10am–10pm, Saturday to Sunday 10am–6pm

The National Dining Rooms

The restaurant is run by Oliver Peyton who along with internationally architect David Collins helped design the restaurant.

The National Dining Rooms offers stunning views across Trafalgar Square and a menu that showcases the best of British produce.

Diners can enjoy fresh salads, seasonal pies, daily hot specials, soups, and a delicious range of sandwiches within the restaurant.

The National Dining Room menu

Opening times: Daily 10am–5.30 pm, Friday 10am–8.30pm

Delights of Spain served up within The National Café

Upon entering the East Wing to The National Café I and the other members of Love Pop Ups London who joined me that night were all pleasantly surprised by the interior of the café with it’s cosy looking seats, pretty tables, and it’s pastel colours along with the images of clouds which swept the café area which gave it that quaint and cosy feel. 

The Sorolla Set Menu

To bring a little Spanish light into our lives, both the The National Café and The National Dining Rooms at The National Gallery are offering a special set menu of Spanish food to reflect the current exhibition of Spanish artist Sorolla.

There are three options on the menu for starters and mains and a couple of desserts. 

Awaiting our starters we firstly was given a glass of Domino de Tharsys which is a bone-dry cava from Pago de Tharsys, which is located 70 miles from Valencia. It is a blend of Macabeo, Parralleda and Xarello, made using the Champagne method. It was light and refreshing with notes of citrus, apple, pear and apricot making it a perfect aperitif.

For starters I opted for the smoked ham and manchego croquettes, pimento aioli.

The croquettes looked like golden nuggets sitting upon my plate. They tasted lovely. The filling within the crunchy crispy croquettes was soft, somewhat creamy and gave a lovely smoky taste.  The sauce also really worked well with the dish giving another texture to the tongue and eating along with the croquette it cut the smoky flavour giving my taste buds a milder flavour.

During our starter we was poured out a glass of Gran Cerdo is from Spain’s Rioja region. I am not a wine fan but this was a lovely fresh tasting. It was smooth, had ripe flavours which cleaned the palette, a real gem.

Here is a little know fact about the winemaker and the design of the bottle label. The story goes that the winemaker was refused money for the bank to bottle a batch of his wine.  So in honour of the said banker, he placed a pig on the front of the bottle and called it Gran Cerdo (big fat pig).

For mains I chose the blackened hake, romesco sauce, almond and olive dressing.

The portion was a reasonable size which I was very pleased with as in most restaurants I have dined the fish on many occasions and has not been on the small side.  The hakes skin was crisp and yet peppery, with the fish being pure white and flaked apart which showed how fresh and well cooked it was.  The sauce that accompanied the dish was lovely as it gave it that extra spice but the lovely creamy puree of potato along with the dressing helped cut the spiciness. This has to be one of the nicest and tastiest fish dishes I have had in a long time at a restaurant so if you love fish and specially hake then I highly recommend going along and ordering this dish from the three course set menu.

During our main course we got to enjoy a glass of Vina Ilusion which is from Spain’s Rioja region. Has shining notes of citrus and a mouthwatering minerality giving it a unique midweight style.

We also ordered some sides of asparagus, broccoli and chips which all were cooked to perfection. I especially loved the chunky polenta chips.

For dessert I had crema catalana.

I love desserts but I must admit I was not a fan of this one.  It was certainly not to my taste anyway.  It tasted a bit like a custard and mousse all being whipped together.  Had a strange flavour and tasted very chalky.  The little fruit that was served on the dessert helped improve it but there was only 3 little pieces of fruit so after I had the fruit I did not want to eat anymore of this odd dessert.  However if you love porridge or even custard by itself then you most likely would like this.  

A few bloggers who joined me on the night loved the Tarta de Santiago. I never ordered this as I am not a lover of almonds however I got to taste a little and wow it was amazing with the zest of orange and the almond sponge.  So If you love almonds, sponge and orange I highly recommend.

All in all the food was amazing and much better than what I expected from an art galleries café.  Plus the menu is reasonable with prices with a set menu costing £19 for two courses and £24 for three courses, all within the heart of London which is an excellent price for Londoners and tourists! 

Verdict

I was very impressed by The National Gallery Café from the interior, the waiting staff and the food.  I felt very relaxed within the restaurant and the food was fantastic for a café.  

The only thing that was a pity though was there was a lack of atmosphere within the restaurant in the evening after 7pm as there was only us dining in the café.  I suppose it is because people are not aware that The National Café serves dinners, perhaps as I was not aware that The National Gallery done either the restaurant or the café until I was approached to do a blog about it. However I think once the word does get around that you can eat at The National Gallery in the evenings then I am sure the atmosphere will greatly improve. 

All in all I would highly recommend The National Gallery be it for a breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or an evening meal.  

Visiting The National Café

National Gallery
Sainsbury Wing
Trafalgar Square,
London WC2N 5DN

Opening times:
Monday – Thursday 10am–8.30pm
Friday – 10am–10pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am–6pm

To book a table call 020 7747 5942

Thank you to The National Cafe with The National Gallery in the East Wing for a culinary Spanish delight inspired by the artwork of the Spanish artist Sorolla. I was invited down courtesy of The National Cafe along with some other community members. All views are my own honest opinion.

Click below to read other’s blogs who came along on the night to dine on the delights of the Sorolla set menu. All their are of their own honest opinion.

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