The real hidden treasure: The Museum Café
Natalia Kornioukhova was a volunteer room steward at the Charles Dickens Museum for almost 2 years. She is currently studying English Language and Literature at King’s College London.
By Natalia Kornioukhova
Located in the extension towards the rear of the museum, the museum café is definitely a hidden gem nestled right in the heart of Bloomsbury. It is extremely difficult to walk past the array of cakes without choosing one, sitting down with a delicious tea or coffee in the courtyard garden and being taken in by the soft sounds of the fountain in this central London location.
The museum itself has an incredible collection to satisfy the appetite of any Dickens fan, yet the cafe’s fabulous food selection can easily sate any hunger pangs after climbing all the way up to the nursery and back. During my breaks when volunteering as a room steward, I could think of nothing better than having my favourite mocha, expertly prepared, and a slice of cake (preferably chocolate) from The Floury to keep me going.
If you fancy something a bit stronger, there is red and white wines available, beer, and my other favourite, gin and tonic, all easily enjoyed in a pleasant and ambient atmosphere. There are soups, salads, and sandwiches – all of which are delicious!
But it’s not just about the food. There are interesting tidbits on the walls, enhancing the museum experience through photos of Dickens and illustrations of his characters. The cafe is also the place to pick up on extra information: museum events are frequently advertised in notices on the tables, and in the adjoining room there is a range of leaflets about events, volunteering, and other museums and places to explore. I always found something interesting to further my personal curiosity in literature and museums, like attending a reading of The Pickwick Papers by Professor Michael Slater.
My favourite place to sit in the café was in the big comfy armchair, or any seat looking out in to the garden. The garden is green and beautiful, a stark oasis of calm in the hustle and bustle of Bloomsbury. There is nothing better than sitting in the garden on a summer’s day with a nice cold drink and enjoying the sights and sounds. Like the indoors part of the cafe, the garden has various bits and pieces relating to Dickens’s life, but my favourite part has to be the fountain. There was always something so peaceful about sitting and watching the trickle of the water.
The café is further brought to life during the museum’s evening events. The best one that I’ve seen was the candlelit evening, when all lights in the museum are turned off, and the only light provided is candlelight, creating an authentic and eerie experience. The candles in the café garden have a wonderful effect of casting light and shadow onto the brickwork and plants, transforming the garden in to an informal night-life environment, best enjoyed with gin and tonic in hand.
So if you’re having a look around the museum, please do not miss the wonderful museum café. And the best thing is, the café is free to come in to even if you’re not visiting the museum itself. You can come in and easily spend a lunchtime soaking up the atmosphere. And most importantly, did I mention that there’s free wifi?
This blog takes you behind the scenes at the Charles Dickens Museum, giving fresh insight on everything from discoveries new and old in our collection, to exhibitions, events and learning initiatives.
You’ll be hearing from a variety of Museum staff and volunteers, as well as guest curators, academics, artists and Dickens enthusiasts. Why not join the debate and let us know you thoughts on the latest blog by using our hashtag #CDMBlog