Pallant House Gallery, tucked down one of Chichester’s Georgian streets, is home to one of the best collections of modern British art in the UK with works by Henry Moore and Peter Blake, best known for co-creating the sleeve for the Beatles’s Sgt Pepper album.
The striking modern building was seamlessly married to the original Queen Anne, grade I listed town house in 2006, both housing exhibitions which win plaudits from critics and visitors.
Galleries and museums worth their salt have a café or restaurant, some outdoing stand-alone eateries. The Pallant Kitchen offers a range of modern influences in a square, light space overlooking a tree-lined courtyard.
Once the domain of the excellent Field & Fork, the restaurant’s new incumbents – no one is credited – have shaved the offering to the bone with a limited range of dishes with precious little flair, unlike the art.
For a late breakfast you could go for granola, berries and Greek yoghurt, porridge, heather honey and berries or toast.
Lunch sees a heck of a lot of ‘sun-kissed’ tomatoes: flaked tuna, mature cheddar and sun-kissed tomato melt with tomato chutney and a platter of cured meats; marinated artichokes, sun-kissed tomatoes, marinated olives, mixed beans in tomato sauce, roasted winter vegetables, warm breads. Those sun-kissed items turn up again with gnocchi and in warm couscous salad.
Good, engaging staff – the café is top-heavy with four staff to only 12 tightly-packed tables – recite the specials with ease except what fish is in the fish pie (salmon, hake, smoked haddock, prawns); carrot and sweet potato soup; spinach and chickpea curry; cauliflower and roasted vegetables.
The small place was packed, gallery visitors and locals queuing for a table. People were turned away despite newly-vacated tables. Prices? From £5.50 to £10.50. Cake, less.
The fish pie came swiftly. The small white bowl’s potato topping looked like the view from a plane above cotton wool clouds, a mass of mashed potato bubbles piped on with precision. Digging down, the pie was disappointing with precious little fish emerging. It was tasteless too. A side of broccoli was stone cold, a spoonful of beetroot and onion sweet and cloying. Three small slices of undistinguished bread came with this.
A lemon, lavender and lilac piece of cake followed. It was rather stale and didn’t thrill. Adding a few mauve sugar sprinkles was not convincing enough to create either lilac or lavender.
Very thin wine – a Chilean sauvignon served in a bog-standard glass – didn’t add to the meal.
Gallery and off-the-street visitors expect and deserve better, especially from the iconic gallery that is the remarkable Pallant House.
Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1TJ 01243 770827
Tues-Sat: 10am-5pm; Thurs: 10am-8pm; Mon: closed. Sunday/Bank Holidays: 11am-5pm.
Disabled access: excellent. All flat.
How to get there: take the A27 to Chichester, exiting at station roundabout. Carry on to Market Avenue and park in Chichester District Council public paying car park on East Pallant, a two-minute walk away from the gallery.