Located within the Tate Britain, this elegant restaurant is steeped in history and has returned for its second outing. Originally established in 1927, the new incarnation of the Most Amusing Room in Europe offers traditional, locally sourced food chosen by head chef Nathan Brewster.
There is no denying that the venue oozes old-world class and sophistication. Having meandered through the beautiful gallery to get to the restaurant itself, the sight of the artfully decorated walls and crisp table linen is no less impressive. White pillars rise from polished parquet flooring and the original window frames look out on the gallery’s property leading down to the river.
The Whistler mural on the walls (The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, 1926/7) sets the scene for the dining experience. The quiet clink of cutlery and the murmur of well-fed guests fills the restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere. The waiting staff are incredibly polite and are ready to recommend menu options at the drop of a hat.
The Rex Whistler specialises in lunches, and its Sunday Roast lunch menu is short but appetising. Both typical and unusual dishes are listed, with meats and vegetables sourced from a variety of British locations. For starters, the chicory, poached pear and Stilton with pickled walnuts is flavoursome, and the smoked salmon with capers is fresh and zingy. Both are carefully presented on white china and the accompanying bread and butter is also lovely.
The main dishes are well prepared, if a little uninspiring. Each roast is served with seasonal and roasted vegetables, as well as a little gravy for the meat dishes. The salmon Wellington and the sirloin of Scottish beef – sourced from Donald Russell – have been cooked well, but lack a little bit of excitement. The presentation is, again, clean cut.
To finish, the apple and quince tart balances sweet and tart well, though the chestnut and chocolate marquise is perhaps not as well matched as it could have been. However, the rich texture of the marquise redeems the dollops of chestnut purée that accompany it.
In this domain, the Rex Whistler is renowned. The very extensive wine list is bound beautifully, and it is well justified – the list is part of the restaurant’s appeal. There are some gorgeous vintage examples, as well as newer, well chosen bottles. The restaurant enlisted the aid of the Telegraph’s Hamish Anderson to curate its collection, and it is very impressive. The red Prieto Picudo 2012, when accompanying the sirloin of Scottish beef, brought out the richer, meatier flavours of the dish with a dash of sweeter berry to balance it, making it a particular highlight.
The Last Word
At £27 for three courses, this is a very reasonable way to spend a quintessentially British afternoon. The cultural atmosphere and the fantastic collection of wine is a major attraction, even if the cuisine seems a little disappointing in comparison. However, all year long the restaurant would be a delightful choice for a lunchtime treat.