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The Courtauld Gallery Café WC2
Tucked away in a basement courtyard just off the Strand, a simple suntrap café that makes an ideal secret sunny day hide-away.
The sun is shining ferociously. The city is too busy. Oh, to escape to one's own traffic-free semi-shaded courtyard, nestling within the rusticated stonework of a great Italianate palace, to be soothed by the sound of a great fountain nearby. Surely, we must be in the Eternal City?
Not necessarily. The small basement of the Courtauld Collection (no visit needed) harbours just such a secret courtyard, and only 20 yards from the Strand.
You wouldn't of course expect to find great food at an establishment like this, but they've wisely decided to do just a few simple things well. On the sort of day we've described, you'd probably be happy with a generous plate of Parma ham, salami, salad and bread, and a glass of the house red. For colder days there are soups, cakes and very decent coffee.
And on your way out, don't forget to look up: that staircase really could have been dreamt up by Piranesi.