Visiting any museum or gallery in London is often a day out in itself, and can be very hungry work. One of the most popular Galleries in London is The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square which hosts various exhibitions throughout the year alongside more than 2,300 paintings. Seeing all of this can be hungry work, but did you know there are 3 different places to refresh and fill your tummies? I was invited along with Love Pop Ups London to try out The National Cafe and their new Sorrolla menu which supports the exhibition of the same name inside the gallery.
I never actually knew that the National Gallery had a cafe. Nor did I think it would be a cafe of this calibre. When I think of a cafe I think of somewhere that sells teas, coffees, sandwiches and just general cafe food and is quite often just an afterthought in terms of design. I was incredibly impressed when I walked in and it was modern and full of light. Clean, and you could definitely tell that thought had gone into the design and interior. There were huge windows and these were mirrored on the other side of the cafe by paintings of the sky which really opened up the space. It’s a very neutral space and definitely suitable for families as well as adults wanting to enjoy a day or evening out.
The staff were friendly throughout our evening and had a lot of knowledge about the gallery and the food and drink in the cafe. They were approachable and seemed like genuinely nice people that cared about the customer experience and had a great sense of humour.
One issue was the lack of customers. There were a couple of people in there when we arrived but we soon turned out to be the only ones in there. This was most likely down to that the National Gallery had closed at 6pm and so people may have been and eaten prior to our visit. The cafe only opens until 8:30pm Monday – Thursday, 10pm on Friday and 6pm on Saturday and so may have to be an earlier dinner if you were looking to go on any other day than a Friday. But I won’t be one to complain about having a restaurant all to myself!
The Sorolla Menu isn’t the largest in the world, but that ensures that the dishes have been chosen for a good reason and reflect parts of the exhibition. This was clearly very inspired by Spanish Cuisine and there were enough options to keep us all happy. Obviously there are other food items from the main menu but the Sorolla Menu was an extremely good price for what we were given. Very good value.
We started with a bottle of sparkling wine which went down very well and was the perfect start to our evening, it gave us a little time to catch up whilst we decided what we should order.
I opted for the Smoked ham and manchego croquettes, pimento aïoli to start, as did the majority of the table. These were SO delicious. I love croquettes and these were delightful, even down to the presentation. They were a little smaller than some I’ve had before but that didn’t matter as the flavour came through so beautifully. (although they were very hot to start with and I couldn’t wait to dig in!)
Before our second course we were treated to a beautiful white wine. I love being able to test out the wines and as I don’t know much about them, I’m so happy when the staff know exactly what goes with what and what will work well.
For my main I went for the Vegetable paella with sprouting broccoli, asparagus, padron peppers and saffron. Very unlike me to pick something with no meat but I had been craving paella for a while and so it seemed like a sign. I was very pleasantly surprised. It was steaming hot and the portion size was perfect. The colours themselves looked like a painting and it went down very well. I’d happily eat this again and I could see a lot of the other people thinking they should’ve ordered the same as me. It had light and fluffy rice along with an assortment of vegetables which added a slight crunch.
The majority of the other bloggers ordered the Blackened hake, romesco sauce, almond and olive dressing, I’m not really a fish fan but this looked so tasty and everyone that ordered it said it was very good. The presentation was on point and apparently the potato puree was out of this world. One diner had the Chicken salad with chorizo and chickpea and said she didn’t have hugely high hopes but wanted something healthy as she’d just returned from an indulgent holiday. She couldn’t fault the salad and said it had exceeded her expectations. Apparently the dressing was incredible and there was a lot of flavours whilst the chickpeas helped her to get full.
I have a sweet tooth. However, neither of these really took my fancy. I’m not a big nut fan so that ruled out the Tarta de Santiago, clotted cream, however a couple of the others had this and apparently it was amazing, especially when paired with ice cream rather than clotted cream. They said it was light and fluffy and had an amazing texture and that the flavour wasn’t too overpowering but still enough to awaken the tastebuds. I went for the Crème catalane although wasn’t completely sure what to expect other than it was sort of like custard. This was more enjoyable than expected but it was a slightly strange texture and I couldn’t quite put my finger of what the flavour was. I did manage to eat it but not sure I’d order again.
We had a lovely red wine to go along with our pudding and it really was a fantastic end to the evening.
I’d like to thank both Love Pop Ups London and The National Cafe for such a lovely evening. I’ve heard that they do a brunch so I’ll definitely get a couple of friends to come with me and maybe go have a look around the gallery! Something I’ve not done in a VERY long time!