Monday, 13 February 2012

Fernandez & Wells at Somerset House

View from window seat in
Fernandez & Wells
at Somerset House

There's always something interesting going on in the gallery spaces of Somerset House.  A major  venue for contemporary art and design exhibitions and home to the wonderful Courtauld Institute for Art, it's located between the Thames and the Strand.  Finally, Somerset House has a café to fit this handsome location in the centre of London. 

Towards the end of last year Fernandez & Wells opened a simple food and wine bar in a corner location of the East Wing of this 18h century neo-classical building.  Looking out onto the central courtyard from what used to be offices for the Inland Revenue, it's a glorious spot. The wonder is that the civil servants managed to keep it to themselves for so long. 

Hidden well into January by the annual ice-rink, until now Fernandez & Wells was easy to miss.  Inside, high ceilings provide an elegant gallery-like three-room space for a stylish café which lives up to expectations.  Each of the rooms is hung with artworks by British artist David Tremlett.  This location is very different from the hole-in-the-wall spaces of the three Soho branches Fernandez & Wells have opened over the past four years.  In Soho your pulse quickens, and that's a good thing but sometimes you want a different kind of stimulation, a little peace and quiet, and some beauty.  Somerset House provides all of these, and the simple food at Fernandez & Wells doesn't disappoint.

Fernandez & Wells Interior
at Somerset House
Partners Jorge Fernandez, ex-Monmouth Coffee, and Rick Wells, formerly a BBC World Service reporter, created Fernandez & Wells in 2007.  The ethos is to offer a select range of foods from some of the best small producers and suppliers around in the kind of place you can pop into at any time of day.  Offering Spanish jamon from Juan Pedro Domecq and Tuscan cured meats from the wonderful Ham & Cheese Company, well-kept cheeses, beers from London's Kernel Brewery, excellent Pasteis de Nata and other good quality cakes.  Brunch dishes, a seasonal dish of the day, freshly made sandwiches, a focused range of wines and sherries, decent single estate coffees and teas makes it a good spot for any time of day.

The café is open every day from breakfast through to dinner.
Bag yourself a table and note the number before ordering your food at the counter and it will be brought over to you.  The staff are eager to please but the atmosphere is relaxed and relaxing.  It's not cheap but it is value for money and a great place to unwind - a world away from the traffic of the Strand.  In summer the courtyard is cooled by fountains and hosts an outdoor cinema season.  Oh, and did I mention the view? 

Fernandez & Wells
East Wing
Somerset House