Either way, here’s our roundup of the best Scottish art gallery cafes, so you can punctuate your dose of culture with lunch, breakfast or dinner. And nowadays, they offer more than just scones.
We’re very excited about this gallery’s new cake cart, which is on the lower level of the building, and serves coffee and cakes to boost your blood sugar before you tackle the exhibits. In addition to breakfast, brunch and lunch, the restaurant, overlooking the River Tay, offers Dundee meets Japan afternoon tea. This includes a Desperate Dan-style cow pie, mini Dundee cake, and flavors of miso and katsu among other flavors. Just outside you’ll also find the Heather Street Food Van, serving donuts, coffee, and bagels.
Edinburgh is full of café-galleries, from Paolozzi’s Kitchen at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to Cafe Portrait at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where you can enjoy an excellent cheese scone, while browsing the Alison Watt exhibition (until January 9, 2022). However, we have a soft spot for this place, at the tapestry workshop and art place, Dovecot. It was recently taken over by the restaurant in Pinkerton, and they have lunch specials including Bloody Mary soup with lamb pie. “The best-selling right now are our savory pies and mon-scots with Isle of Mull cheddar and honey-roasted ham,” explains Floraidh Anne-Law, co-owner of the café. “On the sweet side, our fresh sponge cake with seasonal jam is a winner.”
This place of Arbroath is being restored to its site – once a 13th century hospital and monastery. It is also the location of an Arts & Crafts era home, which inspired Walter Scott’s novel, The Antiquary. Once you’ve browsed through the collections from the 19th and 20th centuries, visit the magnificent café under glass and try their menu of local produce, which showcases vegetables grown in their walled garden. There’s coffee from the local roast, Sacred Grounds, and a menu that includes Angus beef and beer pie, fries, beet ketchup, and organic leaves.
Our summers aren’t complete without a visit to this art park, featuring works by Phyllida Barlow and Rachel Maclean (also, soon to be, a Tracey Emin). They have extended their opening season, which now runs until October 31. Aside from the outdoor artwork, where else can you eat cakes and quiches at a cafe painted in chewing gum pink and covered in cartoon-looking trees, thanks to a artist design, Nicolas Party? Don’t forget the retro Airstream caravan, which serves take out goodies.
THE WATER MILL BOOKSTORE, GALLERY AND CAFÉ
There is always a warm atmosphere in this cafe, which has a wood-burning stove and stone walls. It’s conducive to a big bowl of their homemade soup, with a gigantic “rustic” sandwich filled with Aberfeldy Butcher ham, and maybe a chai latte. The small art gallery is upstairs and curated by local artist Zanna Wilson.
COFFEE FOR ART LOVERS AT HOME FOR AN ART LOVER
This cafe has one of the nicest outdoor terraces, with umbrellas to protect you from the elements – rain, most likely. The all-day menu features a popular salted caramel panna cotta with biscoff crumbs and chocolate tuille, with savory offerings including barley and leek risotto. There’s also a classic afternoon tea, which includes classic empire cookies and strawberry pies. We are sure Charles Rennie Mackintosh would approve completely.
ABERDEEN ART GALLERY CAFE
This gallery, which features collections from artists such as Joan Eardley and Samuel Peploe, reopened after a major renovation in 2019. Look for the new cafes, one on the ground floor and one with a view beautiful, on the second floor. Apparently the menu is simple, but satisfactory.
Shop for a painting, then shop for cake and coffee at this small gallery and café, located in a traditional whitewashed building a 20-minute drive from Tarbert. We have the first dibs on their carrot cake and the chocolate cappuccino cheesecake.
We heard good things about this former fire station, which today houses artist studios, a classroom, a gallery and a café. It’s open for food and drink from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday except Friday and Saturday, where they keep their doors open until 10 p.m. The healthy menu includes a full Scottish breakfast and weekend brunch, evening sharing platters, and tea from The Wee Tea Company.
As part of the relaunch of this newly expanded gallery, which opened with an exhibition by Glasgow artist Karla Black, they have integrated their culinary offerings. We are impressed with the menu, which includes local Obadiah coffee, as well as dishes including roast lemon chicken, apricots, red onions, tabbouleh and herb dressing, fish stick brioche and children’s offers for five.
As befits a contemporary art gallery, CCA’s cafe is also quite forward-looking, with some interesting options on its ‘animal-free’ menu, like a sandwich with slices of tempeh and sauerkraut or a pizza with artichoke, tomato, olive, shallot and pesto. There’s also an outdoor patio at the back – not on the busy Sauchiehall Street – where you can enjoy margaritas with your serving of baba ganoush with garlic flatbread.