“ Café 2, recent winner of the Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards: Best Family Restaurant, is located on Level 2 overlooking the riverside. Café 2 has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Everything on the menu is based on seasonal, fresh ingredients and our own homemade smoothies, leaf teas, and illy coffee are always available. „
On a twenty-four-hour visit to London, I would normally want to seek out a restaurant that is completely new to me. On my way to Tate Modern, however, the heavens opened as I was crossing Millennium Bridge and I ended up like a drowned rat. After spending some time looking round the gallery I still hadn't dried off and the rain continued to pour down. I decided that my best bet was to stay and have something to eat in the Tate's own cafe. Situated on level 2 of Tate Modern, the cafe has both indoor and riverside seating. Needless to say, nobody was sitting outside that day. It was quite busy inside but not overly crowded, and a waitress showed me to a small table straight away.
There are five cocktails to choose from, two of which are available in jugs as well as by the glass. Carafes of wine are also offered. I didn't want an alcoholic drink, and as I had a sore throat I decided on apple and honey iced tea at £2.30. It turned out to be an excellent choice for me. There are also smoothies and of course hot drinks, including an interesting choice of leaf teas as well as hot chocolate and illy coffee.
I arrived at around the time the cafe was switching over from its lunch and afternoon menu to its evening menu. The evening menu offers a selection of tapas or light dishes, three main dishes and a choice of desserts. You don't have to have a large meal, and it is possible to eat quite cheaply if you want to. The tapas section has choices ranging from fried broad beans at £1.65 through Catalan tomato bread with Iberico ham at £5.15 to a meat plate with bread and capers at £10.25. There is a good assortment of vegetarian dishes there. Mains are a polenta dish with aubergine and ricotta at £8.95, pan fried salmon with green beans and fennel at £11.10 and pork cutlet with dressed pak choi and shitaki mushrooms at £11.25. I decided to go for a light main course so that I could sample a dessert as well. The dish I chose was devilled Cornish mackerel with sweetcorn and spring onion fritter at £8.50; this was from the tapas section.
It wasn't too long before a waiter brought the mackerel. It was beautifully presented with curls of very thinly sliced cucumber which unfortunately is one of the few things I don't eat. The mackerel itself, however, was delicious and I also enjoyed the fritter, an unusual accompaniment but a change from potatoes. It seemed like a very healthy meal but it certainly wasn't a filling one and I had plenty of room left for a dessert.
Four desserts are on offer, each priced £5.10. There is a crumble, a flourless chocolate cake with cherries, and a vanilla ice cream with sherry and raisins. My choice, however, was apricot tart with crème fraiche and stewed apricots. For those without a sweet tooth, there is a choice of three British cheeses at £2.60 each or a plate of them with chutney and oat biscuits at £6.15. The apricot tart was served by a waitress. Although the menu clearly stated "apricots" in the plural, there was just half a one in the tart and another half, albeit from a good-sized fruit, to one side. It was, however, enough for me. The tart itself was rather like a Bakewell, just the right consistency, and the crème fraiche finished the dessert off perfectly.
A service charge of 12.5% is added automatically to your bill, which may of course put some people off. I have to say that the service was polite, friendly enough and efficient, and I have no criticism to make of it. I would therefore have left a tip in any case. My bill came to £17.43, which seems very reasonable for two courses and a drink in central London, although most people I'm sure would not have found my main course to be substantial enough.
Should you decide to have breakfast at Cafe 2, this could be anything from a pastry or muffin, fruit juice and either tea or coffee for £5.15 inclusive, or a full English breakfast for £7.95 (drinks not included). There doesn't seem to be a vegetarian full breakfast, but you can have mushrooms on toast with spinach and a fried duck egg for £6.65.
The lunch menu offers the same main courses as the evening one with the addition of fish of the day (from Cornwall), all up until 3pm. Smaller portions of the mains can be ordered for children at the price of £7.10. Some of the larger dishes from the tapas section are available at any time, as are a ploughman's platter for £6.95, fish, chips and mushy peas for £11.50 and one or two other choices. There are five different types of sandwiches, egg and cress mayonnaise being the only vegetarian option, and a number of light dishes for sharing, such as garlic ciabatta or spiced roasted nuts. Chips, potatoes, greens and a couple of side salads can be ordered as accompaniments to main dishes.
The desserts from the evening menu are also available at lunchtime, along with English trifle or a mixed berry meringue roulade, both at £5.10. I would probably have gone for the roulade if it had been on the evening menu. The cheese selection is identical to the evening one.
After 3pm afternoon tea is on the menu. A plate of homemade biscuits will set you back £2.50; the cakes sound relatively healthy, with carrot at £3.85 or flourless banana and almond at £3.60. You can, however, indulge in a fruit scone with clotted cream and strawberry preserve plus a pot of Jing leaf tea for £4.95.
Cafe 2 has its own toilets apart from the ones in the gallery. They are clean enough and probably less crowded - you sometimes have to queue in the museum.
Luckily the rain had stopped by the time I was ready to leave. I tried to go out through the doors to the riverside seating area, but they were locked. I'm not sure whether this was because of the weather or if it was because it was around 7pm by that time. I left by the door I had come in by, which leads to the gallery.
Cafe 2 has won a Time Out Award for Best Family Restaurant. There were hardly any children there at the time of my visit, but I expect lunch is a more popular time for families, especially as children's portions of main courses are served then. I have to say that I felt very much at ease being on my own there, which I wouldn't always do in a restaurant. Even if you are not interested in visiting Tate Modern, I would recommend Cafe 2 as a reasonably priced eatery on the South Bank, especially for lunch or light meals. It is also very convenient if you are visiting St Paul's Cathedral, as all you have to do is cross Millennium Bridge. It fine weather, I'm sure it would be very pleasant to sit outside and have a view of the River Thames while you have lunch or an early evening meal.
Opening times: Sunday to Thursday: 10am - 5.30pm; Friday 10am - 9.30pm; Saturday 10am - 7.30pm.