Exotic cocktails and gourmet restaurant next to the art

LONDON: Exclusive dining and a menu of exotic cocktails is not something you immediately associate with the Royal Academy of Arts but that is exactly what the refurbished Keepers House can offer. Previously unavailable to the public this hidden gem has abundances of culinary treats in a creative and exclusive environment.
The Royal Academy has teamed up with renowned restaurateurs Peyton and Byrne, who have compiled both the food and the drinks menus in what is the Royal Academy’s best-hidden secret.

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Historically the Keepers House was the residence for the Royal Academy of Art’s keeper and it provided studios for a select few artists. The Keeper’s most important role was/is to inspire a new generation of artists through the Royal Academy School of Art founded in 1768 making it the oldest school of art in Britain. Modern Keepers don’t live here anymore and this has enabled the Royal Academy to redevelop the space and for the first time in 2013 made it open to the public.

The Keepers House now consists of a gourmet restaurant, the Shenkman bar with tantalising cocktails, a lush garden and the Academician´ room. Architects Long & Kentish were in charge of the refurbishment and award-winning architect David Chipperfield was in charge of the interiors of the restaurant and Shenkman bar creating a distinct and inviting interior.

During the refurbishment they were also able to restore the original vaults in the basement dating back to the 1660’s and a visit to the ladies loo, which is located in one of these vaults, is an absolute must for the ladies. Landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith designed a magical and lush garden located next to the Shenkman bar providing a quiet haven away from the busy Piccadilly.

Cocktails. When composing the drinks menu Peyton and Byrne very much had in mind the unique history and atmosphere of the Royal Academy. In the signature cocktail menu you can indulge in cocktails like “Burlington Cobbler”, “Once upon a time in Academy”, “An Artist’s Progress”, “Himalayan Mule” and I am frankly not sure which is more British of “Frankly, My Dear” or “Evening Tea”. Experienced bartender Francesco Greco recommends “Mai Tai” especially for King Goya, a delicious and classic cocktail by Don Beachcomber based on dark vintage rum. The cocktails cost between £10-£12 and the cocktail of the month is £8.

Starters. The A La Carte menu in the restaurant offers mouth watering starters like ‘Scallop tartar with coriander, chilli and lime”, “Feathered game terrine” and “Steak Tartar with quail egg and shallot cream”, which is the best Steak Tartar I have tasted for a long time. The starters vary from £7-£15 but most are in the region of £10 or £12.

The main courses includes dishes like “Artichoke Tortellini, “Watercress and pecorino”, “Red leg Partridge, cavolo nero and Kentish cobnuts”, “Lemon sole on the bone, sauted spinach, capers and gherkins” and the “Cod, courgettes, clams and sauce mariniere”, which was absolutely superb. The main courses range from £14-£21.

Among the deserts you find treats like “Bitter chocolate mousse with malted ice cream”, “Spiced poached pear” all at £7.50 and of course the all important cheese selection at £11. There is also a Du Jour Menu, which costs £21.50 for 2 dishes and £26.50 for 3 dishes.

Monthly event. The Supper Club at the Royal Academy is a monthly event offering exclusive dining to a set menu accompanied by wine and drinks. There was of course a specially created menu in connection with the amazing current Ai Weiwei exhibition. And in connection with the Royal Academy’s upcoming exhibition of “Painting the modern garden: Monet to Matisse” Peyton and Byrne have already started to create special Supper Club menus based on Monet’s own recipe book. Certainly one to look out for. The cost of for the Supper Club is usually in the region of £60 for a 5-course meal and specially chosen wines to compliment the food.

Members Club. In September the Academician´ room opened. This is a private members club open to all. The designer, Martin Brudnizki, wanted the interior to have a homey living room feel to it. There is a mixture of sofas and chairs and a selection of Royal Academician´ pieces of art on the wall. MB was able to restore original old wall panels, which still have the nail holes from artwork being hung on the walls over the years. The chandeliers and some floor lamps were specifically designed for the room. A membership is £300 per year with a one off joining fee of £240 and £150 with a £120 joining fee for the under 35s. This membership will give you and friends exclusive access to the Academicians’ room.
For sure, London has some hidden treasures.

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