On the weekend that the new Museum of the Mind opened at Bethlem Hospital in south London, I wandered over to its former home in Lambeth for a bite of lunch.

The former home of the hospital now being the home to the Imperial War Museum, and also as it happened a short walk from a flatshare I was being interviewed for as a potential tenant.

I’ve tried having lunch a few times at the museum, but the canteen area has always been packed, so sending me packing to go elsewhere. This time arriving just before noon, a chance to peruse the offerings and among the decent sounded lunches settled upon a baked salmon.

At least, that was my intent, as after finally attracting service, I was told that only pizza was available. Now in the lengthening queue, I said I would take a sandwich from the other counter instead, as those sounded fairly nice as well.

Asking for the pork sandwich, was told that they also weren’t available –oh, no, there they are, pointing to some plastic covered rolls. Was that it?

Oh, and now with a sizeable queue behind me and being far too English to strop off in a huff I took one from the pile and ordered a coffee. The coffee being not much larger than an espresso did not improve my mood, and by the time I got out of the counter area, the seating was as full as ever, leaving me sitting on the side in what looked like the overflow space.

The roll/sandwich itself was acceptable. A bit tough to chew through, but sometimes a good workout for the jaw is what I am in the mood for. The pork was sadly buried under the texture of the chutney, and even the mild flavours of the chutney were enough to wipe out the taste of the pork within.

The coffee was, well as average as the size was small.

All told, a rather disappointing lunch. I went home, and had a bacon buttie.


Cost: £7.60 for roll and sandwich

Stars: 2 out of 5

Date: 21st February 2015

Summary: Indifferent service offering an indifferent lunch. At least it was consistently indifferent.

Imperial War Museum


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  1. Gillian Lawrence says:


  2. martxw says:

    I’m sure my father didn’t fight the second world war for this travesty!

  3. pianowerk says:

    Your star rating is about right. Cafe is too small, ill designed and if it’s raining overcrowded and noisy. Prices are silly – like many museums/attractions food is overpriced and run by pretty upmarket organisations – fleecing is not a bad word to describe what goes on!

    Frankly local pubs are better, in the main.

  4. Francesca Fenn says:

    I think 2 stars is a generous rating. Not quite sure how they earned them. One for being there…

  5. Stephen Ede-Borrett says:

    I agree two stars is too high – my son and I went outside and found a local pub !

    The quality of catering in London’s museums is incredibly variable and a number (of which the IMP is one) seem to believe that because they have got you into the Museum they no longer need to bother offering any kind of service. NAM was another that “upgraded” the cafe and it pricing while they downgraded the service and quality. I am almost dreading what THAT will be like when it eventually reopens….

    At the other extreme the British Museum, the National Archives and the British Library are all excellent.

    Stephen E-B

  6. Andrew says:

    NAM = National Army Museum?

    I was at the IWM recently. Two drinks and two slices of cake for over £10. Glad we packed sandwiches!

  7. Megapangolin says:

    Anyone who thinks will know that the catering in museums will be bad and expensive and it is therefore for mugs only. I suggest not going along without a meal plan sorted out that doesn’t include eating in the museum cafe itself. These places have no interest in repeat business and do not care that they are pickpocketing their customers as they have no reputation to protect.

    • Ian Visits says:

      You obviously haven’t read the other reviews in the series where I give very high marks to some excellent venues.

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