Sunday, May 26, 2019

Art & Food: Spanish Master of Light, Sorolla at The National Gallery

One of my favourite places in the city is the unmissable Trafalgar Square, full of heart and history. When I had first come to London, I would spend hours sitting at the edge of the fountain, people watching, listening to the street performers, reading a book; the stunning National Gallery adorning the skyline behind.

The National Gallery is home to world-class paintings, sculpture, and other fine art, as well as rotating exhibitions throughout the year. Currently, artist ‘Sorolla: Master of Light’ is being exhibited at the art gallery. Though Sorolla was very famous in his native country, and a hero in Valencia, this is the first UK exhibition of the Spanish impressionist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida's (1863–1923) in over a century! In 1908, the Grafton Gallery London had hosted “the World’s Greatest Living Painter” and this year a new generation will get to see the cerebrated artist's work.

The artist was dubbed the Master of Light by contemporaries for the way he captured the fleeting effects of light. And as French critic Henri Rochefort acknowledged: 'I do not know any brush that contains as much sun.' That's how bright and lovely his work was. You can see all of it at the exhibition, at the Sainsbury Wing, ending on 7th July 2019.

From the vivid seascapes, garden views, and bather scenes for which he is most renowned, to portraits, landscapes and genre scenes of Spanish life, the exhibition features more than 60 works spanning Sorolla's career – many of which are travelling from private collections and from afar.

Image: Joaquín Sorolla, 'Reflections in a Fountain', 1908 © Fundacion Museo Sorolla, Madrid

And to celebrate the Spanish artist, to give everyone visiting the exhibition, The National Café and The National Dining Rooms at The National Gallery are offering a special set menu of Spanish inspired food, thanks to restauranteur, Oliver Peyton.

Like Sorolla's evanescent paintings that were marked by swift, confident, precise brush strokes, the inspired food menu at the cafe was melt-in-the-mouth light and beautiful.

I was invited along with Love Pop Ups London to try out The National Cafe set menu. Packed with delightful Iberian flavours, and decently priced at £19 for a two course and £24 for a three course menu, this was an evening to remember!

The cafe ambiance itself sets the tone - relaxed, with light modern lines and pastel colours, the space is incredibly inviting. We sat below a huge window, and the blue skies outside were brought in through the mirrored paintings. As our group settled in, our lovely hostess started us off with a refreshing glass of Spanish Cava. This gave us a chance to catch up with each other and browse through the set menu to pick our selection.

I opted for the smoked ham and manchego croquettes, pimento aioli to start. And it was a win across the table! Little nuggets of heaven, these were soft cheesy ham and potato filling with a crispy outside. The mains, undoubtedly were the highlight for me! The blackened hake, romesco sauce, almond and olive dressing, was a stunning piece of fish with crispy skin, peppery sauce and a potato puree so smooth that we had to ask our hostess the secret of its creaminess.

Along with the mains, we also ordered some sides - polenta fries and chips with aioli, broccoli with chili and garlic and asparagus with percorino. These were a good sharing size and quite filling!

All through the evening we sampled stunning Spanish wines; the pairings were considerately done by our hostess, which we all enjoyed.

By the time we came to the desserts, I was quite full but it was hard to say no to the exotic names n the menu - Tarta de Santiago and Crema Catalana. I tried the Crema Catalana – the Spanish equivalent of posset or a set cream, and to be honest was a bit let down. It was missing some tartness and texture. But all in all, a perfect way to end the evening!

If you’re in or near London, and are inspired to spend an evening rich in art and culture this summer, head to the National Gallery and follow Sorolla through his 'Vision of Spain', ending it with a delicious three course dinner at The National Café.

The National Café 
East Wing, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

I was invited for a complimentary meal courtesy The National Cafe, along with some other community members of Love Pop Ups London.

Thanks for reading. If you liked my post, leave a comment below, tweet me some love, or come say Hi! on Instagram.


  1. It looks like you had an awesome experience! That food looks so good, you have taken some beautiful photographs. I love London, I am actually going there on Monday for a show, there is so much history and beautiful places to see there. Thank you for sharing your experience xx

    Lauren |

    1. Ooo Lovely! Which show are you watching?
      West end theater, dinner and drinks make for a perfect London evening, isn't it? :)

  2. Looks like you had a wonderful day. Great art and some delicious food is a perfect combination.

  3. Holy hell this food looks and sounds INCREDIBLE. I'm such a sucker for aioli and I'd wolf down those croquettes hahaha. My partner and I love visiting exhibitions, especially from different cultures and backgrounds so we'd love this!
    Alice Xx

  4. That looks like an amazing experience! The food...OMG!

  5. The food looks so delicious. I am sure you had a great time. Loved the write up and that first painting was like a real picture. What an honest and happy account of your day.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this blog post sweetheart and your pictures are so beautiful, great post. I'm sending you all of my love! 🌸💜

    With love, Alisha Valerie x |

  7. Food and art, the perfect combination, plus everything looks delicious. It sounds like a fun experience, glad you enjoyed yourself dear.

    Tx. // Tajinder Kaur

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