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Best of British at Cellarium Cafe – Westminster Abbey:
I do wonder how visitors to London see our City. I’ve lived here so long that I suspect my perspective is extremely biased. And, I’ve read comments about the lack of good food in London Restaurants, and particular the lack of good BRITISH food at reasonable prices that make me wonder whether I am focusing on the right things some times . As a food writer, journalist and blogger, my instinct is to review the new and fashionable. Whereas, perhaps I should pay a little more attention to the places that people need to know about.
Realistically, it’s unlikely someone visiting London will be popping over to Parlour in Kensal Green, even if it is fun and rather fabulous. And, for anyone on a budget, perhaps even historic and centrally located restaurants like Smiths of Smithfields are out of reach. End up in Covent Garden, Leicester Square or Soho and you are more likely to find good French, Italian, Chinese or even Peruvian food than British food (unless you know where to look). And if you happen to want to see a few of London’s historic buildings, well, what can you expect when you come to eat?
Actually it’s not all bad these days, thanks to some innovative restaurant groups that have set up shop in or alongside Museums, Galleries and Public Attractions. I was invited to review Cellarium – a good example of the sort of place to look out for if you are visiting London and want somewhere good to eat close to the sights. I didn’t realise until I started to research the origins of this place that it was part of the Benugo group – in fact despite living in London, I didn’t realise there was more than one Benugo restaurant. I’ve long been a fan of Benugo Bar and Kitchen, tucked away in the National Film Theatre on the South Bank. Great food, a lively atmosphere and somewhere I go to meet friends and relax. Cellarium is one of their restaurants, most of which are close to or tucked away in Museums and Galleries in London and the South East.
Of course, being located in Dean’s Yard, just by the Abbey, there’s the potential for great views. It wasn’t warm enough on the day we visited to sit outside on the terrace, but I can imagine spending many a happy summer afternoon sipping Prosecco and looking up at the tower. The first two photos in this article are actually courtesy and copyright of Cellarium – when we visited for lunch the place was busy with a shortish queue waiting to be seated – although you can, and should, reserve a table if possible.
The food is well thought through. Cellarium serves a mixture of Salads, Sandwiches and Light Meals priced from around £6 to just over £10. The place is licensed, and there’s a short, reasonably good value wine list with everything available by the glass, carafe or bottle. There’s also an afternoon tea menu for £16 a head or £24 with a glass of champagne.
My companion’s hot smoked salmon sandwich with horseradish and rocket looked tasty and generously filled. She thought the bread was a little dry but the filling faultless.
I picked the steak and ale stew, as much as anything to try something cooked and British, but had no regrets at all about doing so. I don’t think any visitor from the UK or overseas would have faulted the tender beef with large chunks of carrots in a rich sauce.
A side order of rosemary sea salt chips looked almost healthy and tasted delicious.
And that’s my excuse for ending up sharing a hot sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce…which came with a side order of vanilla ice cream, not in the picture.
I was impressed with Cellarium. While the menu is quite short, it’s well thought through, locally and seasonally sourced wherever possible and a good example of British food today. Yes of course you can see influences from other cuisines. The menu includes gnocchi, borlotti beans and couscous. But the essence is British; grilled Norfolk free range chicken, apple and blackberry crumble and home cured pork chop with apple sauce. So I’d feel confident taking friends from overseas here, to show them our magnificent Abbey and Cathedral and then to enjoy lunch or afternoon tea in this 14th century Cellarium.
Cellarium Cafe and Terrace
20 Deans Yard,
London Sw1P 3PA