Church Cafés: 3 Holy Places to Dine in London
You won’t believe where they’re serving lunch in London these days. Steeped in royal pageantry, the city’s landmark churches have always been a draw for history and architecture buffs. Now on-site restaurants are attracting foodies, too. Modern British cuisine comes with a huge dollop of atmosphere at:
Cellarium Cafe & Terrace, Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey has seen a huge spike in visitors since the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But even if you’re not a Will and Kate watcher, it’s a thrill to dine amid stones that have witnessed over 1, 000 years of British history. Just opened last year, the Cellarium Cafe and Terrace are accessed through the Abbey’s Dean’s Yard, and revive the Benedictine order’s tradition of hospitality. The whitewashed café occupies the monks’ 14th-century storage vaults and is a cheery place for scones and a steaming cuppa. The terrace is casual sleek, with indoor and outdoor seating and views of the Abbey’s gothic towers. Fresh menu items feature best-of-Britain ingredients like Swalesdale goat cheese and Scottish trout and salmon. The Cellarium is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea most days; check the website for specific hours.
The Restaurant & Cafe, St. Paul’s Cathedral
Most visitors to St. Paul’s are unaware that fine British cuisine is available right under their feet, in vaults beneath Christopher Wren’s great domed masterpiece. To the left of the cathedral’s front doors, an unobtrusive entrance leads to The Restaurant & Cafe at St. Paul’s. Afternoon tea features rich classic goodies like Chelsea buns, lavender shortbread, clotted cream, finger sandwiches and homemade cakes. Fixed-price lunches are available in two- and three-course menus, with traditional roasts making Sundays special. Check the website for hours and a list of local suppliers that include the restaurant’s own beekeepers and orchards.
Café in the Crypt, St. Martin-in-the-Fields
If dining in a crypt doesn’t sound cozy, you haven’t been to Café in the Crypt. Located in St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square near the National Gallery, this award-winning eatery is an escape from maddening crowds as well as one of London’s top dining bargains. The menu changes daily and hot entrées like lamb stew and vegetarian curry cost under a tenner. From Monday to Saturday, traditional English breakfast (eggs, bacon, Cumberland sausage, black pudding, baked beans, mushroom, tomato) can be had for under £8. Afternoon tea is sweetly substantial and probably the city’s best deal at £5.95. Overhead, atmospheric lighting illuminates 18th-century brick vaulting. Worn tomb inscriptions intrigue underfoot. If you’re still not convinced, Wednesday night jazz sessions prove that dining in a crypt in central London can be cool as well as romantic.
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