Test Drives

exteriorThe glass pavilion housing the cafe

So what do we need to know about the Garden Museum Cafe?

Essentially, this is very much a cafe in its own right - rather than merely a handy refreshment spot for a museum. Key to the success though is the chefs they've brought in. As we reported when it first opened last year, they are Harry Kaufman who comes via St John Bread & Wine and Lyles, while George Ryle has worked at Padella and Primeur. 

Where exactly is it?

The Garden Museum is set in an unconsecrated church, St Mary-at-Lambeth Church, in the environs of Lambeth Palace. The glass pavilion the cafe sits in was added in by architects Biba Dow and Alun Jones as the final part of a decade-long expansion funded by the Heritage Lottery. The main section of the cafe overlooks the cloistered garden designed by Chelsea Flower Show winner, gardener Dan Pearson.

To get to it, it's a short walk from Lambeth North tube station, or a pleasant 10-minute walk from Vauxhall, which will be even nicer when the Albert embankment section here reopens.

chardChard and burrata

Where should I sit?

The cafe is split loosely into two parts - the section to the left as you go in is casually defined as somewhere to grab a coffee and cake while the larger section on your right is the cafe proper. Come summer, there'll be a nice alfresco section (they're just getting the furniture ordered) which will be a total sun trap.

So what kind of food is it?

On the day we went, their stove top had broken, reducing their cooking surfaces by 60%, so the lunch menu was a little truncated as a result. On a normal day, expect to find around 4 or 5 choices of starters and mains plus a few desserts and a cheese plate to choose from.

The menu changes incredibly regularly, days after our visit half the dishes had changed substantially. But we'll give you a flavour of what we had to give you an idea of what's on offer.

  • Burrata and marinated chard (£7.50) - perfectly cooked chard with a generous amount of burrata topped simply with really good olive oil
  • Trotter and 'nduja croquettes (£7.50) - so much lighter than they sound and served with an excellent homemade mayonnaise
  • Gnocchi with wild garlic and almonds (£14) - really good, light gnocchi
  • Smoked haddock served with a warm potato salad, watercress and capers (£15) - a sense of the spring to come on a plate

We also shared a wonderful rhubarb cobbler (£5.50) for dessert with a mound of good custard.

haddockSmoked haddock with potato salad

What about the drink?

As you'd expect from a team whose background includes Primeur, the list is eclectic - ask for help from your waiter. Ours guided us to a Noisiola from Trentino in Italy (£8 for 125ml glass) - and the list, in general, is well priced starting at £4.50 for a small glass and ranging from that up to £42 for a bottle of Pierre Frick Reisling. Everything is available by the glass and carafe and there are two Orbit beers too.

Overall thoughts

Ever since it opened we've been wanting to get down here, but the weekday lunch only hours meant we never made it. But now the restaurant is also open for dinner on Tuesday and on Friday evenings as well as being open for lunch at the weekend.

It's an utter gem of a place and will be even more wonderful once spring finally kicks in and the gardens here come into bloom once more. Highly, highly recommended.

cobblerRhubarb cobbler

 

More about The Garden Cafe

Where is it? Garden Museum, 5 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB

When does it open? 26 June 2017

Find out more: Follow the Garden Cafe on Instagram @gardenmuseumcafe.

 

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