The National Gallery started modestly in 1824 when 38 paintings – the collection of banker John Julius Angerstein – were bought for the nation for £57,000.
Originally housed at Mr Angerstein’s home at 100 Pall Mall, it was considered an embarrassment when compared with other national collections. Particularly the Louvre in Paris.
Not wanting the French to get one over on us, Trafalgar Square was chosen as the site of a new building which opened in 1838*.
The National Gallery now has over 2300 paintings. It is without doubt one of the finest galleries on the planet, containing some of the highlights of western art 1250-1900.
I have visited many times, but every time I walk in it still takes my breath away.
When all the splendour, religious allegory and high drama becomes overwhelming, there is a small painting in room 30 that I always find calming. Zurbaran’s quietly beautiful Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate.
It is a reminder to sit down, partake of a cuppa, and take time to assimilate the wonders.
We are privileged to be able to visit the National Gallery for free, so I find it easy to justify spending a bit extra on a nice cuppa, spot of lunch or a book. Win-win.
The National Gallery’s restaurants are run by Peyton and Byrne, who do an excellent job.
The National Café, on the ground floor has self-service for sandwiches, cake and hot drinks. However tea is served tea in paper cups. There is also a sit-down dining area.
The National Dining Rooms in the Sainsbury Wing are smart rooms with Paula Rego murals, overlooking Trafalgar Square.
They offer an excellent range of over 20 teas and infusions (menu here), with seven types of green tea alone.
My Ceylon Orange Pekoe was perfect. Oaky and refreshing, served in a silver-edged white china tea-cup and Japanese teapot.
There are delicious looking cakes. I sat next to a lady enjoying a Winter Berry and Lavender Cheesecake, which she declared was the best she had ever tasted.
I have previously visited for afternoon tea, which is very good and a bargain at £17.50 especially considering the location right in the heart of London.
There is a great bookshop below the restaurant. They have a good range of gifts, including National Gallery tea and even a Leonardo tea towel!.
*There is more about the history of the National Gallery website.
|Price of a Cuppa :||£2.30 to £3.50 a pot|
|Leaf or Bag :||Leaf|
|Crockery :||Smart white china cup with silver rim; Cast iron Japanese pot|
|Music :||gentle buzz of chit-chat|
|Service :||Friendly and efficient|
|Food :||Webpage with sample menus|
|Kitty says:||Lovely spot for lunch/dinner/cuppa/assimilation of wonders|
|Address:||The National Dining Rooms
The National Gallery
|Website:||National Dining Rooms|