British: National Dining Rooms

Posted by Krista on March 13, 2008

National Dining Rooms
National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
Tel: 020 7747 2525

Date of Last Visit: Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Victims: Julie, Jen, Niculie, Kellie

The Damage: £35ish each?

The Background: Julie has bought us all tickets to the Vanity Fair exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. We've paid her back, of course. But it was good of her to organize this. I like it when people organize weekend activities for me. I'm very good at showing up to events that other people have organized. I am also good at sitting around in my pajamas all weekend. These two things might seem unrelated, but they're not.

Finding the National Dining Rooms: As you're facing the National Gallery, the restaurant is in the building to the LEFT. Over by Canada House. I spent a while wandering in and out and around, looking for it. Don't do that to yourself.

The Service: Started out really well at first, but then grew distracted. Desserts took ages to arrive. We were all done with ours by the time Jen's showed up. (They just totally forgot to put her order in.)

The Bread: Hard! Really really hard to cut into.

My Starter: Butternut squash soup. Nice, but nothing spectacular. Needed salt.

My Main: Goosnargh chicken breast with black trumpet mushroom, grapefruit and spelt crumble. According to the Web site. However–I don't remember grapefruit being listed on the actual menu–just spelt crumble. I don't like grapefruit. At all. Uggh. I would not have ordered this if grapefruit had been listed on the menu. And they were sneaky about it. The grapefruit was underneath everything, so I didn't even realize I was eating the grapefruit until it was in my mouth and I gagged on it. Eck. Gag reflex kicking in as I'm writing this.

Pudding: Toffee ice cream with brandy snaps. But not brandy snaps that are cookies. It was carmelized sugar. Nice. This was my favorite dish.

Funny: Our friend Matt's mom was there. A city of how many million people? And there's Matt's mom?

The Loos: I thought they were gross. High traffic area. Julie thought they were okay.

The Verdict: If I were in Trafalgar Square, I would consider this restaurant for lunch. But as you can tell from this review, I'd have some issues with returning. Plus, even though the menu is trying wonderfully hard, the whole place had this cafeteria-like atmosphere that I couldn't get past. Needed to be darker. With candles. Or something. (We were there for Sunday lunch.)

6 Responses to “British: National Dining Rooms”

  1. Thanks for this review. I’d been wondering about the National Gallery restaurant because it gets such good writeups (in American newspapers), but I was suspicious because it’s in such a high-tourist-traffic area. It sounds like I’m not missing much by not going.

  2. Douglas
    Mar 13, 2008

    …we should go on review reconaissance together one day…

  3. Sorry you had a bad experience. Liz and I have had some excellent food in there, including last Sunday when we also visited the Square for the Vanity Fair exhibition. They do struggle a bit when full, but for high end brasserie food they generally do very well. There’s probably an age issue here. The ambiance is very reminiscent of Lyons Corner House back in the days when working class people dressed up to go there for lunch and pretend to be middle class!

  4. I’ve just realised looking at the National Gallery website that we ate in the Café Brasserie downstairs whereas I think you were in the more upmarket restaurant upstairs. How ironic! You should definitely try the Brasserie. The entrance is in the Square, just to the right of the main entrance.

  5. Ann
    Mar 14, 2008

    Some sad news about the chef at the restaurant…

  6. Krista
    Mar 16, 2008

    Mike, Alice…
    Yes, I was so intrigued by all the fab reviews…didn’t it win Time Out Restaurant of the Year last year? It just goes to show you, I suppose, the experiences at restaurants can be so individual. Mike, I will give the Brasserie a try some day!

    Douglas…yes, a review together at some point sounds great!

    Ann…wow, thanks for the info about the chef. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

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