The Level 1 Café at the Tate Modern, in the original ‘Boiler House’ building, is more than just a gallery café. It’s a little bit special. Because here, if you perch up on the long counter (there’s a handful of small tables, too), you’ll get uninterrupted, up-close views of the River Thames, the London skyline and St Paul’s Cathedral. The views are – whisper it – actually better than from the official ‘viewing platform’ in the new Blavatnik Building.
It does, to be fair, have a fairly standard gallery café vibe: bright lights, wipe-clean tables, distracted staff. For a more formal ambiance, you can head up to the restaurants at level 6 or 9 (the Bankside view is effectively the same, only the sights are that bit further away. And, of course, it’s all more expensive).
As for the food, it’s simple, but perfectly serviceable: this is the stuff of pitstops and picnics. If you’re in a savoury mood, go for a plate of caper- and onion-scattered folds of smoked salmon served with two slices of wholemeal bread. The cheese and charcuterie board (with grilled sourdough, granary crackers, chutney and pickles) is fine, but forgettable. Instead treat yourself to something sweet, like a generous slice of the moist walnut cake.
And a final tip: go at an off-peak time, or expect to queue for a window seat. And do go earlier in the day: the beauty of this place is that, once you’ve got a seat, you won’t be rushed from it.