Skip past the droves of tourists congregating around Trafalgar Square, and congratulate yourself for knowing about this haven among the endless horror-show chain restaurants in the area. Ascend the stairs to Oliver Peyton’s first-floor dining room – in the quieter Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery – and enter a professionally run and peaceful place, where the views (over the Square in one direction, of a vast Paula Rego mural in the other) are matched by the superb food. It’s formal and slick enough for a special occasion, yet would also do splendidly as a stop-off during a day’s sightseeing.
Prices are on the high side, but there’s a good-value set lunch including a glass of wine, which is well worth taking time over. Dishes are light, artfully presented with clever additions. They also make the most of slap-bang-in-season ingredients: an early spring vegetable salad featured delicately braised chunks of squash, golden beetroot and carrot, a line of vivid beetroot ‘dust’ and horseradish popcorn. Poached chicken is enlivened with ‘Marmite and bacon’ toast; venison haunch may come with damsons and liquorice. Service on our visit was notably keen and accommodating. There are also set menus for Sunday lunch and afternoon tea. Note that dinner is available only on Fridays.