London is packed with great restaurants and wondrous works of art. Here’s our guide to pairing paintings with places to eat…
Saint Catherine, by Artemisia Gentileschi, National Gallery
Back in 2016, interest was piqued in Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi when her work proved to be one of the highlights of the National Gallery’s Beyond Caravaggio show. The same institution has now bought one of her self-portraits, of the artist as St Catherine, and it’s a must-see. Gentileschi was a follower of Caravaggio, and while his influence can be detected in this poignant painting, there is also a sensitivity and power that makes her art masterful in its own right. The painting is currently being exhibited elsewhere but it will be back late summer/early Autumn. After viewing art by an extraordinary Italian woman, it seems appropriate to recommend an Italian restaurant run by a female chef of the highest order. Close to Green Park, Angela Hartnett’s Murano is a short tube or bus ride from the National, and is one of the capital’s most reliable high-end Italians. Go at lunchtime for a very reasonable set menu (£32 for two course, £37 for three courses). http://www.muranolondon.com
The Bathers at Asnieres, by Georges Seurat, National Gallery
Pairing art and international food is easy when the National Gallery is the picture palace in question. As well as Italian, I’m going French, because there are plenty of French bistros just a beret’s throw from Trafalgar Square, and also because The Bathers at Asnieres is one of the finest and most distinctive paintings in the gallery’s entire collection. No visit is complete without a stop by Seurat’s Parisian riverside, the scale and technical achievement of which is always something to behold. It’s also a painting, with it’s shimmering colour and figures bound together in their isolation, that manages to be simultaneously melancholic and uplifting. From one Gallic classic to another, take a stroll to Mon Plaisir in Covent Garden, a reliable, art-packed bistro that has been open since the 1940s. Dishes include snails cooked in Ricard, garlic and parsley butter, and coq au vin.
The Waterseller of Seville by Velazquez, Apsley House
Head to Apsley House, in Hyde Park Corner, the former home of the Duke of Wellington, to see this stunning demonstration of the Velazquez’s genius, from his deft rendering of the waterseller and the young boy, to his uncanny recreation of the glass, complete with water and floating fig. This masterpiece was originally part of the Spanish royal collection, but was stolen by Napoleon Bonaparte. Wellington recovered it, along with a number of other paintings, after victory at the Battle of Vitoria of 1813, and, luckily for art-loving Londoners, was allowed to keep it as a reward. After viewing this down-to-earth Spanish scene go for a down-to earth Spanish meal at El Pirata, in Down Street, which does tapas and chef’s specials in an informal setting, and, most importantly, at reasonable prices, despite its Mayfair location.
Shakespeare portrait, National Portrait Gallery
One of the best known portraits in the NPG’s collection is this painting of the Bard, possibly the only known portrait of him to have been painted from life. Believed to be by John Taylor, it is generally referred to as the Chando’s Portrait, named after one of it’s former owners, The Duke of Chandos. After seeing this picture, and others including Jane Austen, Elizabeth I and Charles Darwin, the traditional British grub on offer at Rules seems like an ideal follow up. Opened in 1978, it is just around the corner from the NPG and claims to be the capital’s oldest restaurant. Its menu is brimming with old reliables such as steak and kidney pie and Dover sole.
Dynamic Suprematism, Tate Modern, by Malevich
Try a contrasting experience of artistic excellence and epicurean classicism by heading to Tate Modern to see Dynamic Suprematism, painted in either 1915 or 1916 by the trailblazing avant-gardist Russian Kazimir, followed by a hearty Eastern European meal at Baltic. A 10-minute walk from Tate Modern and housed in an 18thcentury former coachbuilder’s works, Baltic is an eatery that will leave you well and truly stuffed. Go hungry and get stuck into Russian and Polish delicacies including beetroot soup, dumplings and pork schnitzel a la Holstein.