The Gallery Café is on the ground floor of the city’s illustrious Art Gallery, famous – among other things – for its collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings, a viewing of which is a good way to work up an appetite for a snack or, preferably, a full-blown lunch. One of the things I like about this cafe is that it has an excellent and renowned chef, a lady by the name of Mary-Ellen McTague who has brought a fresh, light touch to the menu and swept away all remaining traces of Council-run catering: the other thing is its participation in the Real Junk Food Project, which offers ‘intercepted’ food that would otherwise be thrown away. Parents will be pleased that kids can choose this special “pay-as-you-feel” menu.
Sometimes I go there just for coffee and look smugly out of the window at the Caffe Nero opposite while I savour the calm, airy atmosphere of this fabulous Georgian room. It once was the office of the Director but nowadays he/she hot-desks it with the rest of the plebs, while the asset is made to earn its keep and the public gets to eat and drink in elegant surroundings.
Sometimes a party of art-lovers will descend on the place and fill it with the kind of arty conversations that are rich pickings for eavesdroppers. At holiday times it can be quite busy with families (whose conversations tend to the mundane) however, whether it is busy or quiet, the food is exquisite and the ambience cultured.