Until my recent retirement, I’d worked in Westminster for a number of years but I’d never heard of Cellarium a café and terrace. So when a former colleague, Cathy, suggested meeting there for lunch, I couldn’t resist.
The restaurant is set within the 14th Century store house of Westminster Abbey and takes a bit of finding as you have to enter through the cloisters. I had a quick look in the nearby gift shop and was then met by a queue on the stairs waiting at the podium. Through a window I could see a relatively uninviting basement café with large communal tables and started to wonder about my friend’s choice. On reaching the front of the queue, instead of being ushered right down another short flight of stairs, I was escorted up a longer flight of stairs on the left and led to a table in a wonderfully light and bright covered terrace with bare brick walls.
I chose my seat and waited for Cathy. I’d hoped to have been able to order two glasses of fizz to welcome her but even though she was slightly delayed by that thing called ‘work’, no one came to see if there was anything I wanted.
When Cathy arrived, we chose from the set menu (2 courses for £16 or 3 for £19). A glass of wine could be added for £3 but she had the afternoon off and we were after a bottle. We ordered the same: a cauliflower and blue cheese soup with bread, followed by mint and pea risotto.
The soup took ages to arrive and a ‘man of the cloth’ sat at the next table started muttering as he was in a rush. The soup was delicious and served in an old fashioned individual tureen placed on a white napkin on a plate which contained a slice of thick brown bread with butter on top.
We waited patiently for our empty bowls to be cleared and I hit the dilemma – because I was sat facing into the restaurant and could see what was, or in our case, wasn’t going on, I really wanted to complain, but was it my place to do so when it wasn’t my choice of restaurant?
Eventually bowls were cleared and after another delay, mains arrived. Once again, the food was good and presented as beautifully as risotto can be.
When our plates were cleared, we asked for the bill to avoid any further delay. We waited and waited and eventually another waiter came up and, seeing the empty table, asked if we wanted anything else.
Whilst the food is undoubtedly good and the terrace lovely, the service is appalling. By the time we left, American tourists were arriving for afternoon tea.
If you think about going, I’d book and say that you want a table on the terrace.