I promise this isn’t how I eat all the time. It just so happens my mum is in London this weekend and that’s cause for celebration (she’s only been here a couple of times, big city living isn’t really her style). As a result we do the nice things, things that are the nicer than touristy, things that ensures she knows that her daughter is fine, and safe, and having a fabulous time in London.
So off we head to the National Gallery dining rooms. Overlooking the iconic Trafalgar Square, the restaurant is located in the Sainsburys wing of the gallery, only a short walk to all sorts of impressively large and famous (and expensive) paintings. The view through the girder criss-crossed windows is spectacular, if you are lucky enough to get a window seat, and the low warming lighting, mahogany furniture and what my mum tells me is famous art (not my forte) all create a decadent atmosphere – as we took our seats we knew we were in for a treat.
There are two menus to chose from: an a la carte menu and a staple every day menu. Both have two courses for a reasonable twenty something pounds. It’s an impressive selection of British meat, fish and seasonal vegetarian dishes; we all spend 10 minutes weighing up the options; rabbit terrine or potted mackerel? Pork with chestnut crust or mutton cooked three ways? I can’t decide so I ask the waiter to recommend..in a thick accent he informs me that the hock and the ‘troot’ (aka trout) are both very good so that’s what I go for; British hamhock with a celeriac salad and a parcel of trout with chard.
We snack on some delicious bread and chat, we’re in a late sitting and the restaurant is slowly quieting down. When it arrives just 15 minutes later the hock is beautifully complex and is paired with crunchy and deliciously bitter grated raw celeriac. The dressing is sweet basil, capers, gherkins, finely sliced onions and olives.
We all devour our starters and promptly afterwards the trout arrives. My first mouthful is soft and sweet but it is unfortunately paired with fennel..one of my pet hates, I feel like I’m eating sambuca..so I swap with my mother for her grilled seabass with tenderstem brocolli and roasted green tomato chutney. I’m a bit smug about my swap as it is delightful. There is no messing around, the flakey moist fish is cut through by the tangy chargrilled tomatoes and the brocolli is simple, fresh and crunchy.
We finish off with a fight over the chocolate ice cream in a mixed ices sundae, fresh mint tea and a peruse of the impressionist art locked away only meters from us.
I will come here again..on a special occasion..