It’s difficult to get a culture fix when you’re hungry.
We had an excellent morning on a long overdue visit to The Burrell Collection, which reopened back in March 2022 after a six year and £68.25million refurbishment. It’s light and calm inside, and feels like a spaceship crossed with a church.
However, we knew it was time to eat when low blood sugar affected our sense of direction and we kept ending up in the gift shop.
I have quite enough tea-towels and fridge magnets, thank you very much.
I also began to hone in on certain works. There was a tile that featured a parrot stealing a ripe cherry; a canvas of cabbages, a tureen and pale eggs; the 5000-year-old bandhan urn that reminded me of a stew pot and Manet’s painting of women drinking beer in frosted glasses.
My stomach rumbled, and interrupted the hush that surrounded Rodin’s The Thinker, which is the colour of a nice piece of treacle-y cake or a well-fired piece of lamb shank.
Before I was tempted to cut a large slice, we headed to the busy restaurant, which is looked after by Benugo. They also cater for the Museum Kitchen at the National Museum of Scotland and the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen in London, among other art-y venues.
It’s in a casual gallery cafe style, so you can stop for coffee and cake, or lunch.
First, you have to bag a table (by leaving your plus one or a jacket there, presumably), then queue and give them its number when you order.
The lines to the tills are on either side of the cake display, so I did a bit of window shopping. Unfortunately, the wares were all a bit brown and same-y looking, but I knew I wanted the millionaire’s shortbread, as the caramel was oozing out of its sides.
Hold that thought. First come savouries.
We didn’t have to wait long for our katsu Ayrshire cauliflower (£13.50). I hadn’t been expecting much, since this is a mass catering affair, but this was a satisfying casual dish. There were three large Panko-crumbed florets of non-soggy veg, and a lake of salty gravy with a few pointillist pricks of heat. The sushi rice was unseasoned, and there could have been more of the cucumber pickle addition, but that’s all I could grumble about. I'm not about to do a Brian Sewell.
We also had the slightly dry herb-marinated chicken breast (£14.50), with a piquant chimichurri, new potatoes, chunks of artichoke, charred broad beans and a few pea shoots. Not a masterpiece, but very pleasant.
Same goes for the portion of truffle fries (£6), which we’d ordered before we realised that the chicken dish had tatties on the side. The chunky chips were topped by a web of grated cheddar, and balsamic crispy onions, and came with a ramekin of truffle mayo on the side.
It was nice to see mozzarella from Fife’s Buffalo Farm on the menu, as part of a summery and fresh-sounding salad (£9.50). This mixture also featured the ubiquitous rocket and quartered tomatoes, but it was also supposed to contain charred peaches, which weren’t charred, but more like the slippery tinned versions, and mint (AWOL). At least the cheese was there to please.
We decided to bail, have another look round the gallery and reconvene for cakes.
Sadly, on our return, all the millionaire’s shortbread had been pilfered. I blame regulars. They know what they’re doing. Us amateur Burrell visitors didn’t stand a chance.
From a slightly dull selection that included blueberry muffins or lemon drizzle, we ended up with Dundee cake (£4). It was almond and fruit-laden, though should have really been paired with tea, rather than the meh flat white (£3.50) I’d ordered. We also tried a large slab of carrot cake (£4), which was serviceable too, with plenty of walnuts in the sponge and crumbled bits on top of the thick cream cheese icing.
I’ve had much worse lunches and cakes in many gallery cafes.
This place isn’t bad, but it’s not going to make this a food destination, as well as an art one.
However, if you do find your mouth watering as you stare at Rodin’s famous sculpture, they will absolutely sort you out.