If you’re visiting London and want a haven to pause from sightseeing or shopping for coffee or a light lunch, there’s a cafe I’d like to recommend to you.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is a stone’s throw from Knightsbridge where every tourist visits Harrods to buy a tin of Earl Grey tea to take home for their mother and self respecting fashionistas check out the designers at Harvey Nichols. I was there to meet a friend for coffee before a spot of sightseeing in Greenwich (more of that later).
As you enter through the front entrance, don’t forget to look up at the two enormous chandeliers that hang above the front lobby. The first is a sculpture by architect Zaha Hadid, made of black crystals individually suspended on wires to make a shape which looks like a swarm of bees, hence it’s name of Swarm.
The second, above the information desk is of blue and yellow Venetian glass baubles by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly – it’s Murano with a modern twist.
If you can resist temptation, move on through the gift shop and you find the internal courtyard where you can take a coffee when the weather is fine. The shallow oval pool throws up jets of water and you can sit on the steps in the sunshine, or even paddle of you’re feeling hot.
On the other side of the courtyard you find the cafe which has recently been moved back to it’s original location when it opened in the 1860s as the first museum restaurant in the world. We sat in the Gamble room which is covered on all surfaces with decorative tiles and mottos below the ceiling such as Hunger is the best sauce.
On either side are two smaller rooms, decorated in similar arts and crafts style, one in Greens and Gold by William Morris, the other with blue and white Dutch tiles by Edward Poynter.
The decoration was dark and rich as a fruit cake, but if you find it too overpowering you can take your refreshment in the stark white modern corridors on either side of the cafe, with a classical marble sculpture for company.
Oh, by the way, in case you thought I was only feasting my eyes on all the decoration, the food was first class too. You can have anything from a slice of cake, to a salad lunch or a hot meal and I thought it was reasonably priced for central London.
After coffee and cake with my friend for around £4, I returned the next day for a substantial salad lunch which set me back £6.95. I’d much rather relax here in beautiful surroundings than some of the overpriced pavement cafes that I saw in Knightsbridge. And if you have time, the museum is wonderful too, especially if you love fashion, textiles and beautiful objects generally. And it’s free entry – what could be better?
If you’d like to combine your artistic lunch and cultural activities with an evening show, take a look at London Theatre Breaks to round off your perfect day out in London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Nearest Tube: South Kensington