Museum piece

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The Independent Online

Once upon a time, people went to art galleries purely for their cultural well-being. You could be sure that the food in the café would be terrible - a cup of tea and a soggy cheese roll. It went with the territory, along with dozing attendants and the smell of damp raincoats.

Once upon a time, people went to art galleries purely for their cultural well-being. You could be sure that the food in the café would be terrible - a cup of tea and a soggy cheese roll. It went with the territory, along with dozing attendants and the smell of damp raincoats.

Now, though, everything has changed. What started off as a neat advertisers' joke - the famous description of the V&A as "an ace caff with a nice museum attached" - has become straight reality. The complex task of ensuring that the treasured Rembrandts, Turners or Emins are suitably displayed is mere child's play by comparison with the efforts that museum directors will go to in their unquenchable desire to ensure that their museum or gallery is possessed of a fashionable restaurant. All the big names in the gastronomic world are now linked with galleries - from restaurateur Oliver Peyton to Stephen Saunders of Ready, Steady, Cook fame.

Now, even the National Portrait Gallery and the neighbouring National Gallery are in fierce competition as to who will run the best and chicest eaterie. In short, a revolution in the art-gallery world. It's shocking. If they go on like this, they'll be waking up the attendants next.

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