The National Cafe information

A cafe de luxe, with its own dedicated entrance on St Martin's Lane, the National Cafe features a waiter-service brasserie, self-service dining hall, espresso bar and stunning private dining room. A timeless yet glamourous interior provides the backdrop for a comprehensive menu of modern European cuisine in brasserie and freshly prepared delights available in the self-service dining hall.

Ranked #382 of 5241 restaurants in London

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Opening Hours
Opening Hours

08:00 - 22:00


08:00 - 22:00


08:00 - 22:00


08:00 - 22:00


08:00 - 22:00


09:00 - 22:00


09:00 - 17:00

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What did you think of The National Cafe?

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The National Cafe reviews

By Andrew M.

My boyfriend and I went for a pre-theatre dinner at the National Cafe last night and had a fantastic time. The restaurant was buzzing and had a great atmosphere, the staff were charming and attentive and our food was simply delicious. I strongly recommend the salt beef sandwich and the macaroni cheese for main course, while the National catastrophe and apple pie both made irresistible desserts.

We were both so impressed that we are planning to visit again very soon to sample the restaurant's tempting breakfast menu before going for a little wander around the gallery.

By Andrew M.

I love the National Gallery and am always very pleased to have time to eat in the Cafe. It is a very pleasant environment and not to pricey like some gallery cafes.

By J.

The National Gallery Cafe is a cafe in a the National Gallery, wonders will never cease! The food's alright, the atmosphere's ok and its in a gallery, what more can you say?

By Stephen F.

Three years after opening, the National Cafe still impresses, whether it’s David Collins’ imperious art deco design, the good quality of the food or the fact that it’s within a sweeping brushstroke of some of the world’s finest art.

The Venue
Just round the corner from the National Gallery’s magnificent visage, casting its eye over Trafalgar Square, the National Cafe’s comparatively tiny entrance on St. Martin’s Place can easily be missed. Which is a shame, as it plays host to another of David Collins’ superlative designs, with a bold art deco feel punctuated impressively by swathes of black, impeccably polished floors, dark woods and a smattering of bronze and gold. It almost feels timeless were it not for a far wall featuring the goods – and the face – of Oliver Peyton from Peyton and Byrne: the people behind proceedings.

It’s undoubtedly a very impressive interior, with swooping dodecahedrons of amber and gold lighting things up nicely, and plenty of suitably sedate, apt and understated pictures adorning the walls. The restrooms could do with smartening up a little, and tables sometimes wobble, but you’ll still feel like you’re dining somewhere very pleasant indeed.

The Atmosphere
With such a close association with the National Gallery itself, the National Cafe is always going to attract a varied clientele, especially when you also consider all those who might take advantage of its proximity to the West End. Consequently, you can find yourself dining next to lone art enthusiasts, retired couples, young, idealistic lovers enjoying some culture, eager theatre-hitters and even a few families… families who seem to have remarkably well-behaved children. Perhaps they are just wowed into silence by Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus. Still, it’s a vibrant venue, with the general hubbub drowning out the barely audible music in a way that makes it all feel pleasantly informal and relaxed.

The Food
Currently playing host to a very fine looking, and very popular Venetian menu from the hand of Ricardo da Pra, the National Café brings good quality food at relatively reasonable prices. The current menu sees some deliciously appetising Venetian-inspired dishes including borlotti bean soup with pasta and olive oil, veal liver and onions with polenta and pasta with shellfish and fresh tomatoes. The pea risotto (£13.50) is certainly worth trying though, with perfectly al dente rice, plump, sweet peas and fragrant strips of rosemary immersed in a rich sauce full of pepper and parmesan.

From the normal menu, the mackerel tartar with golden beetroot is excellent, with well handled, fresh fish chopped, seasoned impeccably with salt and cracked black pepper and stacked on a bed of purple beetroot and its sweeter golden counterpart. It’s elegantly presented, and a flick of a few oregano leaves finish it off, adding a complementary bit of bitterness whilst at it. The Cornish crab and chilli taglioni (£13.50) also proves popular, and there’s certainly plenty to get your teeth into.

The Drinks
There’s an impressive wine list here, perhaps aimed at those affluent and interested enough to match the cultural capital that makes them marvel at the masterpieces next door. A 2009 tempranillo seems like a suitably good house option at £16, but if you do want to spend more you can, with a list that rises slowly but surely up to a premier cru Burgundy at £80, via malbecs at £29 and Bordeauxs at £38. Admirably, quite a few of the options are available by the glass, enabling you not to get too squiffy if you’re popping in for lunch. If you really want to avoid the booze then there are some great smoothies and juices such as the basil and cucumber (£4), a blend of fresh cucumber, basil, apple juice and pear juice, or excellent coffees, where even the simple Americano (£2) is full of rich flavour. Draught beers include Becks, Guinness and Leffe, all coming in at under £4 a pint.

The Last Word
The National Cafe remains popular with visitors to the gallery next door, but with a splendid setting and good food, there’s no reason not to see it as a destination venue in its own right.

By Anupa S.

The perfect cafe and restaurant to relax in the heart of London. Despite the increidble art the agllery has to offer the servcie at the Cafe is far from artful. I have been attending the cafe for several years and I am sad to say that I feel the servcie has deteriorated rapidly. On one occassion I ordered a fresh ginger tea and the ginger was not peeled and the water luke warm. In addition a recurrent problem I have faced is being turned down to be seated for a hot drink despite the fact that hot drinks are on the menu. The decision is somewhat arbitrary and contingent on the mood of the manager or person in charge. I was recently asked to attend the more informal cafe next door when I requested a pot of tea. Despite this there were several other people only having hot beverages and not eating. From my experiences the more senior staff are rude in comparison to the waiters and waitresses who seem to offer a better service. You have to look the part to be seated!

By Black L.

Friday 31st May 2013. My friend and I had just finished our meal when i saw her glance furtively at the couple near us. She wasn't looking at the couple, but at the mouse below the woman's legs, wandering around as bold as brass like it owned the joint. All my friend had to do was shriek 'MOUSE' at the top of her voice and the place would have emptied. She didn't, instead we complained. The restaurant manager made excuses, said they'd received a 5 star rating from Westminster Council only a few weeks before. Hmm...check for mouse droppings next time Westminster, a bit of a clue. No discount on the meal offered - but I demanded one. Totally outrageous that a mouse boldly wanders in the public area. Grudgingly we got 25% off. BIG DEAL, keep your receipt, you get 20% off next time you visit. Will there be a next time? You are joking!

By Ben D.

Fantastic Food, TERRIBLE service!Had dinner with a friend there Wednesday night, apart form a large party of about 20 people, the place was pretty much half empty. We were served by a bewildering array of people who seemed disorientated to say the least. Ordered some water when we were seated and a lemonade. Straight away I went to the waiter at the bar and asked if I could change the lemonade to a red wine which he said wouldn't be a problem.A lemonade arrived but no water (or wine). The waiter in fairness did eventually notice this and offered to change the lemonade but I said it was fine. We were much later presented with two bottles of water and accused of re-ordering it twice! Then I was informed by another waitress that the 1st course I was trying to order wasn't available and I should have been informed when we were seated. The food was really good, but not exactly cheap either so you'd expect it to be good. The main course was plonked down at our table and the (chef I think it was) stride off without offering us any cutlery!Eventually I managed to grab the head waiters attention, He said 'Oh it's disgusting isn't it, I'll get you some'. After dropping half of it on the floor he offered us some free deserts as an apology.This gesture seemed to have been completely forgotten about after it was made though, as another waitress then appeared offering us deserts and without any idea of all the things which had gone wrong. There seems to be no communication whatsoever going on, all the staff are doing there own thing, it's really weird! We declined desert and asked for the bill. I was tempted to ask for the service charge to be deducted but by this point I wasn't sure how long it would take for anyone to amend the bill correctly, so I paid it and left. It's a nice place and good food, but you can have a much better expearence elsewhere for the money you are paying. It must be like 'Fawlty Towers' on a Saturday!

By Carina B.

Agree with the negative experiences of some here, especially the customer service. To try and get the attention of waiting staff was nigh on impossible.

They were often just chatting amongst themselves at the bar counter rather than being attentive...or at least present!

I don't think the waitress was actaully listening to my order when she brought out a glass of wine to me rather than the bottle for me and my friend.

Then she didn't add the cheese to the burger...but what do you know it was charged on the bill!

No sauces were offered for the burger so instead of trying to get their attention re. the lack of cheese and ketchup I just had to go up myself.

I may have felt a bit more kindly towards the experience if our food was up to scratch but it was severly lacking.

And, over-priced to boot. At least we had to wine to settle our growing annoyance.

When we eventually had to go up to the till to get our bill instead of waiting for a further age, I explained to the restaurant manager about the cheese etc and that we had requested the bill..twice I think but had got no joy...he was in no way apologetic and even apathetic.

This was one of the worst dining experiences in that it it purports to be a high quality, homely, great food experience in lovely surroundings, but am afraid only got marks for the room itself.

Style over substance. Oliver Peyton needs to spend more time checking the quality of his establishments rather than Ramsay-style empire building.

I would just grab cake and tea in the grab and go section next to it and get dinner elsewhere.

We ended up going to St Martin in the fields for some nice cake for dessert instead as I didn't want to waste any more of my money there.

What a shame for such a nice Gallery.

By Isabelle L.

Our London trip was great until we stopped at the National Cafe for afternoon tea. It was a Friday afternoon and things were pretty slow in the cafe.

There were eight people in the cafe including four waiters, who were busy chatting.

We were totally ignored. After 10 minutes of waiting, finally, a waiter stopped chatting and brought us a menu after we repeatedly tried to catch his attention.

We were totally ignored again that. We waited for another 10 minutes, no one came over to take the order.

We thought okay, maybe this is how the Brits serve their customers. Then two men dressed in sharp suits came in.

The waiter immediately greeted them and brought them a menu. At that moment, we decided to walk out and the waiters didn't even try to stop and ask us what happened.

Clearly, this is not a place that welcomes tourists. We've been to many restaurants in many countries.

In terms of service, this is the worst experience we've ever had. We would give it a zero star if we could.

We would never go back again and don't recommend this place to anyone.

By Jessica D.

I was excited to take my parents out for afternoon tea after a day of sightseeing and chose the National Cafe, what a big mistake. The matre de was as rude as possible, refering us to the caffeteria next door instead of seating us, and when we returned to have afternoon tea he was rude and short. When the food arrived we found out (after drinking some tea) that the milk was sour, on bringing this to the attention of the wait staff the milk was exchanged but no appology was provided, and we had to explain to them that serving tea in cracked teapots could present a food poisoning risk, again without any apology or any offer to exchange it - the wait staff had to 'check with the manager' as to whether the pot would be thrown away. halfway through our visit the wait staff decided to move all the wooden chairs in the restaurant, another diners complaints about the noise didnt stop them. When the bill arrived we were charged for everything served (even the tea and coffee that was tainted with bad milk) and a 12.5% service charge was added, which I had to argue over removing. Do yourself a favour, dine somewhere where they value their customers.

By S.

We had a wonderful dinner party at the National Cafe last night. Had yummy cocktails at the bar then 5 of us had dinner.
Staff were friendly and the food was delicious, especially the desserts. I returned for a breakfast meeting a week later as the location is fantastic, and I ended up booking my boyfriend's birthday party in the private Trafalgar Room on a round table for 16.

The menu has been adapted and chef was very accomodating and helpful. Thank you the National Cafe.

By M.

Horrible, horrible, horrible! I have never ever walked out of a restaurant before, but I walked out of the National Cafe last night. There was only one other table in the restaurant when we were there, but we had to wait for 15 minutes for some water (even though I had said I needed to take some medication) as the four waiters were too busy flirting with each other and texting!

My partner had to ask them to bring us the water, and from then on they were extremely surly. I ordered the salad deluxe and my partner asked for the National hamburger medium well. It arrived burnt on the outside and still raw in the middle. Actually raw - not pink, raw. This isn't just not fulfilling an order - this is a dangerous. My salad deluxe had lumps of uncooked unidentifiable vegetable which was horrid, and no cheese as promised.

When we complained (the waiter had said Everything is fabulous, yes? and we replied Well, actually, no) we were told we would have to wait for more than 15 minutes for another one, even though the only other table was already eating dessert. We left and I will never go back to The National Cafe. I recommend you find another cafe to go to.

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