In a lot of ways, the Garden Café is pretty unassuming – the dining room is understated, with paired-back, simple decor, casually dressed staff, no loud music, no ‘concepts’.
Its location is innocuous, too: nestled in the peaceful surrounds of the Garden Museum, on the south side of the Thames, closest station Lambeth North.
An elegant, fad-free dining space, in London, in 2018, where you can sit quietly and eat a remarkable lunch unbothered by the flash of a dozen camera phones? Believe the hype.
Or, more to the point, the lack there-of. Because this lovely, tranquil space has shot straight to the top of the must-visit lists for ‘those in the know’ without a concept or fanfare, any fuss or flashy events, just simply thanks to its food.
When you take a look at the team behind it, it’s easy to see why – there are some serious culinary credentials at play in the kitchen, namely those of Harry Kaufman (formerly of Lyle’s and St John Bread & Wine), and George Rye (Padella, Primeur), who are dedicated to creating dishes that burst with freshness and flavour, made from some of the UK’s best ingredients,
Salad leaves come from Keats Community urban farm in south London, bread is from The Snapery in Bermondsey, while cheese comes from East Dulwich based Mons.
Fish is delivered daily from Cornwall, and meat is from Yorkshire butchery Swaledale.
Seasonal and local are the two words at the core of everything that comes out of the kitchen, with the menu changing daily to reflect what’s at its best and available.
I first visited the Garden Café in winter, when the floor-to-ceiling windows offered a panoramic view of the snow-covered flowerbeds that surround it, teeny shrubs just poking through the frosty soil.
I ate unctuous braised oxtail and hake with artichokes in a rich buttery sauce.
Dishes contained no more than four or five main ingredients, and were a total celebration of each component working in perfect harmony yet still tasting of itself.
I’ve since been back and watched summer in full swing, sunshine flooding the space with a golden glow.
At time of writing, dishes are bursting with late-summer flavours: sweetcorn and girolles with tarragon on toast; peaches with burrata; prosciutto and melon.
Expect the flavours of autumn to come creeping in soon, and the surrounding gardens to take on a beautiful rusty orange hue.
A lot of restaurants place seasonality at the top of their priority list, but here at the Garden Café, it’s at the very core of everything they do.
For further infromaiton on Garden Café, please visit their website.
By Vicky Smith
The Bon Vivant Journal
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