Dining at London’s top churches
Did you know that some of London’s most famous churches have on-site restaurants? Modern British cuisine comes with a side of atmosphere at:
CELLARIUM CAFE & TERRACE, WESTMINSTER ABBEY: A great discovery on my last visit to London was the Cellarium Cafe and Terrace at Westminster Abbey. Accessed through the Abbey’s Dean’s Yard, the restaurants revive the Benedictine order’s tradition of hospitality. The whitewashed Cafe occupies the monks’ 14th century storage vaults and is a cheery place for tea and scones. The Terrace is casual sleek, with indoor and outdoor seating and views of the Abbey’s old stones. From the right position, you can glimpse the Gothic towers. Menu items in the Terrace restaurant feature fresh 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. For both eateries, check the website for specific hours.
CAFE IN THE CRYPT, ST. MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS: This has long been my favorite restaurant in central London. Located in St. Martin-in-the-Fields church on Trafalgar Square, Cafe in the Crypt is one of London’s best dining bargains. From Monday to Saturday, traditional English breakfast (eggs, bacon, Cumberland sausage, black pudding, baked beans, mushroom, tomato) is served. Afternoon tea is hefty and a great deal at £5.95. Menus for lunch and dinner change daily, with hot entrees like fish and chips, lamb stew or vegetarian curry costing under £10. Hours extend well into the evening hours, with jazz sessions on Wednesday nights. Hours are shorter on Sundays, when traditional teas and Sunday roast lunch are served. If you prefer to dine above ground, the church’s new Courtyard Cafe offers sandwiches, light meals, tea, wine and beer.
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 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 classic British baked goods like Chelsea buns, lavender shortbread, finger sandwiches and homemade cakes. Fixed-price lunches are available in two- and three-course menus, with traditional roasts on Sunday. Check the website for hours and a list of local suppliers that include the Restaurant’s own orchards and beekeepers.