I’m not sure I have ever written about a restaurant in Lambeth before, perhaps because I’m not sure how many great restaurants there are in this quiet leafy area of London. The Garden Cafe is changing all that, and has become quite the culinary destination for weekday lunches.
The Garden Museum first opened in 1977, and is still the only museum dedicated to the history of important gardens in the country. The venue reopened in summer 2017 after an extensive makeover from Dow Jones Architects and is a shiny and extended version of the former building.
The new restaurant is the largest addition, a light-flooded room with a smart polished concrete floor and simple white tables. Signs of its previous life as a graveyard still remain on the floor, the historic gravestones make for interesting lunchtime reading!
When I visited last week the bright dining room was full of friends, families and museum-goers, a lovely mix of clientele who had all clearly got the memo about the great food on offer here. Service is smiley and unfussy, and the menu is short but appetising.
We chose a selection of small and large plates from the list. It was clear that the kitchen team here want to champion a few key ingredients in each dish rather than over-complicating things.
Highlights from our lunch included the Venison ragu and pappardelle, a comforting meat sauce with a wonderful depth of flavour, generously coating thick homemade strands of pasta, and with a dusting of salty parmesan. The Pollock with peas and pancetta was also a joy, the freshest fish served with the sweetest new season peas and indulgent chunks of crispy pancetta. These delicious ingredients were sitting in a puddle of light but buttery sauce… irresistible.
Of the smaller dishes Purple sprouting broccoli, crème fraîche and pangratata was my favourite. The broccoli still had a little bite, topped with a dollop of refreshing crème fraîche and crunchy breadcrumbs.
Thanks to the Easter festivities we were treated to a very special Hot Cross bun & butter pudding – pillowy soft, moist sweet bun spiked with juicy raisons and served with cream. The Rhubarb and brown butter tart was also scrumptious, a delicate pastry with an oozing pink butter filling.
The Garden Cafe is a great new dining destination in Lambeth. If you don’t have time for a full meal, I highly recommend just stopping by for a slice of cake and cup of tea, a delicious treat whether or not you wander round the beautiful museum.
More information and book a table at The Garden Cafe here.