REX WHISTLER OF TATE BRITAIN
The historic Rex Whistler Restaurant was opened as a café at the Tate Gallery in 1927. At the time, it was described as “The Most Amusing Room in Europe” because of the mural that decorated its walls entitled The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats, which depicts the story of a royal party that traveled around the world searching for exotic foods. The mural was commissioned to the exceptionally talented young British artist, designer, and illustrator, Reginald John “Rex” Whistler. He was only 22. It was his first commission and the most celebrated work of his early career. He would go on to enjoy great success. He was tragically killed during the Second World War, in 1944, aged just 39. The huge mural in the iconic Tate Gallery restaurant serves as a reminder of his exceptional talent. It was expertly and lovingly restored in 2013 as part of the Tate Gallery’s refurbishment.
The restaurant still bears his name and is famous for its seasonal British menus, created by Head Chef Alfio Laudani and his team, for its dinners and lunches in conjunction with popular exhibitions, devoted to and inspired by talented artists whose works are on display in the Gallery, either in special exhibitions or in the permanent exhibition. Their Saturday Jazz brunches in the summer, where hot jazz, blues, ragtime and popular tunes of the 1920s and 30s are played, are especially popular.
But what the Rex Whistler Restaurant is really most famous for is its wine list, which scoops up the Best Wine Lists awards year after year. In 2017, it received a Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence and the World of Fine Wine Award – World’s Best Wine Lists. The wine list is often or, at least, seasonally updated and boasts first-class wines at reasonable prices. It includes many organic wines or rather wines produced from organically cultivated grapes. It represents one of the best value restaurant wine lists in London thanks to its famous wine cellar built over many years by Tate CEO of Catering, wine buyer, and advisor, Hamish Anderson.
It’s also worth mentioning the Level 9 Restaurant at the Tate Modern, another contemporary stylish establishment of the Gallery that serves excellent modern European cuisine often inspired by current exhibitions. Different and shorter from the wine list of its older peer, Rex Whistler, it’s equally exciting and is very much worth a try.