Visit a museum also for its food
Though you don’t generally visit a museum for its food, it’s always nice when the cuisine on offer is as impressive as the art on display. Forget those single-serving puddings, prepackaged chicken salad sandwiches, and juice boxes. Museum restaurants have grown up and taken dining to the next level. At these museum dining spots, beautiful bites often steal the spotlight from the surrounding art.
The Hermitage Restaurant, St. Petersburg – Russia
St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, founded almost 250 years ago by Catherine the Great, is home to a grand restaurant (located in the General Staff building) serving authentic Imperial-era Russian recipes in rooms fit for, well, a czar. The menu offers Russian specialties like chocolate babka, as well as international favorites like soups, salads, and deep-dish-style pizzas. Choose to dine in one of 10 rooms, including one with a spectacular view overlooking Palace Square.
Nerua at the Gugenheim, Bilbao – Spain
At Nerua, modern Michelin-starred Spanish cuisine makes a smart match for Frank Gehry’s undulating glass-and-titanium architecture at this Bilbao outpost of the Guggenheim Museum. Situated next to a massive Richard Serra installation, and overlooking the river it was named for, Nerua’s interior dining space is minimalist and serene, while the kitchen, helmed by El Bulli alum Josean Martínez Alija, turns out creative dishes that stand up to the museum’s collections.
The Ludwig Museum Café, Cologne – Germany
Perched above the Rhine with an open glass facade facing the city skyline, the restaurant at this contemporary art (Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein) museum has been described as a “Rhineland paradise for epicures” with a menu renowned for its focus on locally sourced ingredients. Even the Ludwig Café’s famous sausages come directly from its own slaughterhouse.
Musée d’Orsay Restaurant, Paris – France
While the 112-year-old Musee D’orsay Restaurant—once the glittering jewel of the famed Hotel D’Orsay—still delights with its sparkling chandeliers and richly muraled ceilings, fans of the modern can dine in the museum’s companion Café Campana, pictured, opened during the D’Orsay’s recent renovation. The menu at both eateries is classic French cuisine, the perfect pairing for the vast Impressionist (Renoir, Manet, Degas, Cézanne) collection housed in the museum’s galleries.
Café Sabarsky Neue Galerie, New York – USA
Authentic Viennese is on the menu at the Neue Galerie, a museum dedicated to modern Austrian and German art and design, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Done up in period furnishings (Josef Hoffmann lights, Adolf Loos furniture), this café evokes turn-of-the-20th-century Austria, and tastes like it, too, with classic dishes like Wiener Schnitzel devised by chef Kurt Gutenbrunner.
The Garden Museum Café, London – UK
English gardens are some of the world’s most beautiful, so it should come as no surprise that the café at the heart of the Garden Museum has been called the prettiest table in Central London. In keeping with the seasonality of the surroundings, the menu of tarts, salads, and soups varies according to the calendar.
Caffé Museo at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco – USA
While the modern art on the walls might be the draw at SF Moma, the “edible art” served in the café unites art lovers and food lovers. Picasso Palette cake, Frida Kahlo–themed menus, and recipes adapted from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book keep patrons coming back.
Café d’Art at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo – Japan
Pastry chefs at the Café d’Art in the Hara Museum concoct new cake creations for each exhibition, and the café’s view of the modern art museum’s inner garden provides a tranquil escape from the hustle of frenetic Tokyo.
Museo-Atelier Canova Tadolini Ristorante, Rome – Italy
You’ll feel like a sculptor’s assistant in this unusual Roman restaurant, thanks to the plaster casts and statuary of emperors and angels that fill the dining room. The former atelier of the great Neoclassical artist Antonio Canova and his protégé, Adamo Tadolini, the restaurant boasts one of the most enchanting settings in the Eternal City. Fill up on Roman specialties like spaghetti all’amatriciana.
Acropolis Museum Restaurant, Athens – Greece
Even Zeus wants a table at the Acropolis Museum, where the restaurant overlooks one of the ancient world’s most wondrous sites. While the view of the Parthenon is amazing, the menu of traditional Greek fare is also worth the trip, especially on Fridays, when the restaurant stays open till midnight to serve a special seafood-centric dinner.