Formerly run by the London Buddhist Centre on nearby Roman Road and currently managed by neighbouring volunteer centre, St Margaret’s House, the Gallery Cafe boasts a history of delicious vegetarian cooking served with a side order of social consciousness.
The cafe nestles below the entrance of the main community centre and, although it’s almost hidden from view, it’s striking green exterior and outdoor menu do well to signal its existence. A precious seated terrace complete with wrought iron chairs and terracotta tiling gives way to the main patio door beyond which lies the main cafe. Once inside you have the option of relaxing on the sofas and digesting the daily broadsheets which are bought in, or you can progress to the bright airy seating in the spacious conservatory.
The Gallery has an effortless aura that is natural and organic. The soft beige walls are peppered with surrealist art alongside crayon drawings that have been submitted by children from the centre upstairs. The staff are open to a fault and the overall effect is akin to relaxing with friends in your own home, evident from the way you see regulars curled up on the sofas with their shoes (and sometimes socks) removed.
For such a small outfit the menu is extremely generous. They specialise in homely vegetarian favourites such as freshly made soup, pasta and baked potatoes, with most dishes easily under £5. As basic as the food is, it’s served with a creative flare that elevates it above the average. The chilli (sin carne) baked potato is a weekend favourite, infused with crumbling kidney beans and complimented by a choice of two salads - the three bean option is doused in balsamic dressing and offset against mozzarella with plump tomatoes and aromatic basil. If you feel like something less hearty, there is a sweet platter laden with fresh home baked goods and the moist chocolate brownies and richly iced carrot cake are both options that complement a quick coffee.
As standard the cafe offers huge carafes of fresh water complete with fruit slices to which you can help yourself. On colder days there is a wide selection of hot drinks on offer; from fair-trade herbal and fruit teas to the speciality coffees which are prepared with almost loving attentiveness. The frothy, chocolate garnished cappuccinos (£1.30 for a small, £1.80 for a large) alone could give Starbucks a run for their money.
The Last Word
The Gallery Cafe is so homely it makes eating out seem like eating in.