Bites: Is there life beyond carrot cake in the best art-centre cafes and restaurants?
Arnolfini Cafe Bar, Arnolfini art centre, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol (0117 9299191). Mon-Sat 10am-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm. The vibe's reliably jazzy in the evergreen cafe of the Arnolfini. And the food is an attraction in its own right in this coolly minimal refectory-style setting. The menu changes daily and is refreshingly varied, ranging from goat's cheese and rocket salad to prawn and clam burritos, baked bream and paella, back to the more predictable art lover's sustenance of vegetable and cheese crumble. Main courses are pounds 5.75 to pounds 7.50. Flapjacks and the like fill gaps at any time of day.

Cafe Ikon, Ikon Gallery, Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham (0121 248 3226). Tue 10.30am-7pm, Wed-Sat 10.30am-10.30pm, Sun 11am-5pm. A Victorian school turned into a dynamic contemporary art venue, Ikon also has a cafe that keeps pace by providing tapas-style food that would be as at home in Barcelona as Birmingham. Choose from olives and caperberries, nuts and courgette crisps, lamb cutlets, and monkfish brochette with tarragon: the most expensive dish costs pounds 6.25. For added continental effect, French windows open on to the square outside.

Cornerhouse Cafe, Cornerhouse art centre, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester (0161 228 7621). Daily 11am-8.30pm. Despite looking a little down at heel, this remains popular for the food. Hot choices for less than pounds 6 might include chicken and mango kebabs marinaded in honey, orange and rum, with rice; chicken fillet in lemon couscous with tomato salsa; celeriac and potato layer with peppercorn and cream sauce. Sandwich fillings are predictable. Of course, there's carrot cake.

Delfina Studio Cafe, Delfina Studio, 50 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 (0171-357 0244). Mon-Fri lunch. How to define Delfina? It's a gallery and studios for artists who are also provided with subsidised meals in the bright white independently-run lunchtime restaurant. The vibrant food is a match for any contemporary restaurant and with similar prices - around pounds 20 for three courses without drink. Baby octopus, with potato puree and truffle oil, or wild mushroom mascarpone omelette might be starters; chargrilled fig and chicken sausages with cumin Puy lentils, or skate with stir-fried vegetables, char-sui and spring onion mash are typical zesty mains.

Taste, Tate Gallery, Albert Dock, Liverpool (0151 709 7097). Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-6pm. Turn left at the entrance to the Tate Gallery in Liverpool's Albert Dock for business-class catering. Kitted out in spindly modern metal it's a cafe serving gallery-goers during the day, which changes tempo in the evening to become a bar and restaurant. Daytime is more sustaining than challenging, with sandwiches, bangers and mash, and gammon steak for around a fiver. In the evening, there's anything from burgers, and a children's menu, to a fancier format of prawn and mango salad with balsamic dressing, Barnsley chop and chocolate fondu, for around pounds 15 for three courses.

Throwingstones Restaurant, National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland (0191 565 3939). Sun-Tue 10am-5pm, Wed-Sat 10am-5pm, 7-10pm. Quiche and carrot cake are not on offer at the North-east's dazzling monument to the glories of glass. The menu changes daily; for lunch there might be braised loin of pork with bubble-and-squeak, or baked sweet potato with roast fennel, mushrooms and coriander yoghurt, for pounds 5 to pounds 6. Filled croissants or open sandwiches are pounds 1.75 to pounds 3.75. In the evening you might find braised rabbit with white and black pudding and apple dumplings, or braised lamb hock with butter bean mash and roast carrots and shallots, for pounds 7.50 to pounds 13. Caroline Stacey

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