Restaurants at famous art galleries whose dishes are also masterpieces, from Odette at the National Gallery Singapore to Mosu at Hong Kong’s M+ museum

Then of course there’s one of Odette’s signature dishes, Le Pigeon Fabien Deneour En 3 Services, where theatrical presentation and plating celebrates the whole bird, notably the incredible breast crusted with Kampot pepper from Cambodia.

Le Pigeon Fabien Deneour En 3 Services at Odette. Photo: Odette

In Tel Aviv, Israel, chef Gal Ben-Moshe’s restaurant Pastel is located within the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, overlooking the sculpture garden.

Ben-Moshe’s international profile is rising. He has twice cooked in Hong Kong at the culinary pop-up Test Kitchen; he owns and runs the one-Michelin-star restaurant Prism in Berlin; and he also has a restaurant in Dubai.

Steps away from galleries filled with paintings by greats including Rubens, van Dyck and Canaletto, and the work of Jewish-Polish painter Maurycy Gottlieb, Pastel is known as one of Israel’s most beautiful restaurants and has won multiple awards.

Tartar of yellowtail with apple, cucumber and a rice puff at Pastel. Photo: Pastel

“For me, a restaurant in a museum is connected to my deep passion for the arts and my belief that food is an artistic medium,” Ben-Moshe says.

“In Pastel we are very much inspired by the museum’s collection to design our dishes, but especially how they curate local art in the same way that I try to emphasise local ingredients.”

Wild herbs, local fish and lamb, and Middle Eastern spices all feature in dishes inspired by the Levantine cuisine of the eastern Mediterranean.

Chef Gal Ben-Moshe at Pastel. Photo: Pastel

An octopus skewer comes with textures of potato and cucumber and flavours including tzatziki and zhug, a hot sauce originally from Yemen made with coriander and parsley.

More sublime seafood includes a tartar of yellowtail with apple, cucumber and a rice puff, and tuna with crispy bulgar wheat, orange, ponzu and aromatic leaves.

Main courses include oxtail agnolotti with tangy and aromatic hamusta, a Kurdish-Jewish soup, or a stunning Ben-Moshe signature dish of grouper, leek, unripe grapes and XO shrimp that was inspired by his visits to Hong Kong.

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Of course, Hong Kong itself has multiple dining options within museums. These include a raft of award-winning restaurants at Tai Kwun, the centre for heritage and arts in the city’s Central business district, ranging from British classics in sublime surroundings at Magistracy Dining Room to elegant, authentic Cantonese at Madame Fù.

Over the harbour at M+ museum in West Kowloon is Mosu, the first international outpost of the three-Michelin-star original in Seoul, which reinvents Korean cuisine with imaginative presentation, techniques and ingredients.

Amuse-bouches include a sculpted mushroom atop a tart that wouldn’t look out of place among the world-leading collection of Asian contemporary art just steps away. It’s matched by an ethereal combination of sea urchin, tofu and ajo blanco – the refreshing, almond-based Spanish soup – that underlines the truism that some dishes are almost too pretty to eat.

Sculpted mushroom tart at Mosu. Photo: Mosu
Sea urchin, tofu and ajo blanco at Mosu. Photo: Mosu

In London, Irish chef-restaurateur Richard Corrigan’s The Portrait Restaurant sits inside the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

“For as long as I’ve been in London restaurants, this iconic building has stood there proudly offering access to world-class portraits for free,” Corrigan says.

“As an avid lover of art, I’ve always enjoyed visiting the place. So it’s with great pride, truly, that I can bring my passion for cooking, utilising the best of British and Irish produce, into this national institution.”

Conchigliette pasta with rosemary and snails from Dorset at The Portrait Restaurant. Photo: Chris Dwyer

The setting is jaw-dropping, thanks to a remarkable bird’s eye view across Trafalgar Square, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament behind and Nelson’s Column in front. Diners enter the 70-seat dining room, which features an open kitchen and elegant design motifs inspired by the museum, through the gallery itself.

Corrigan and his head chef, Simon Merrick, take diners on a global culinary journey through the restaurant’s menu.

A special starter of skate wing was rendered perfectly crispy and served atop a som tum-style Thai salad, then a gorgeous whole artichoke was topped with cock crab, kombu and seaweed powder. A shared bowl of conchigliette pasta with rosemary and snails from Dorset was a true thing of beauty.

Skate wing with “som tam”-style Thai salad at The Portrait Restaurant. Photo: Chris Dwyer
Lamb chops with aubergine, labneh and harissa at The Portrait Restaurant. Photo: Chris Dwyer

Main courses included English grouse with lentils, and halibut in a lobster bone broth. However, lamb chops with aubergine, labneh and harissa won out and showed a true deftness of touch on the char and a subtle balance of flavours.

The relationship between art and food goes back a long way.

Epic Roman feasts defined decadence and were immortalised in frescoes on the walls of villas in Pompeii.

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Lavish banquets have been portrayed in artworks such as Still Life with Peacock Pie by 17th-century Dutch artist Pieter Claesz, where exotic olives, peaches, lemons, candies and the then precious commodity of salt all feature.

The Peasant Wedding by Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel depicts the simple joys of bread, porridge and soup. Leonardo da Vinci – a vegetarian – filled notebooks with his reflections on food, recipes and shopping lists.

Today, Britain’s leading professional association of chefs is called The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. Its name not only underscores its royal link – King Charles III is its patron – but also the idea that a chef is an artist.


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