One of the most spectacular and important baroque interiors in Europe, the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, is sometimes called the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’.
While the building itself is yet another example of British architectural expertise – designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor – the interior is the show-stopper.
Conceived and executed by British artist Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726, the central narrative draws on a cast of more than 200 figures to tell a story of political change, scientific and cultural achievements, naval endeavours and commercial enterprise against a series of magnificent backdrops.
The exquisite work of art is 40,000 square feet and has been used in a number of different guises over the centuries – even providing a place for Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson to lie in state after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar – but is now open to paying visitors during the day and transformed into a place for corporate events in the evening.
Now, after a two-year conservation project, the Painted Hall reopens complete with a brand-new café and events offer in partnership with independent caterer CH&CO.
Part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project has conserved the Painted Hall and its Undercroft, where the new Painted Hall Café now operates.
The café not only enhances the visitor experience but also provides a new destination for the local community.
The ‘baroque meets modern’ design throughout the Undercroft is a history buff’s dream, as it showcases original pillar foundations and offers a glimpse of Tudor archaeology.
Excavations uncovered the remains of two service rooms from the old Friary buildings, which formed part of Henry VIII’s Greenwich Palace, while unusual niches thought to be ‘bee boles’ where bee hives were kept during the winter months to protect hibernating bee colonies can also be seen.
Open from 10am-4.30pm daily to both visitors and the general public, the fresh, seasonal menu offers a varied selection
of breakfast items, lunches, hot and cold beverages and cakes.
Appealing to different tastes, dietary requirements and lifestyle choices, the menu features a mix of light bites, family favourites and classics with a modern twist – the vast majority of which is produced in the on-site kitchen.
Breakfast includes bircher pots, porridge and pastries; and lunch features seasonal salads, freshly-prepared sandwiches and toasties and hot dishes with daily specials such as macaroni cheese with crushed peas and smoked ham hock.
The cake selection includes tempting delights from traditional Victoria sponge to flourless chocolate cake and lemon and almond polenta cake. Freshly, brewed barista coffee and speciality teas are available all day, with white wine, prosecco and beers served after midday.
A team of 20 from CH&CO, working in the café and across events, from chefs and front-of-house to operations and sales, work at the Old Royal Naval College full-time.
“We’re very excited to be working with the Old Royal Naval College to launch the Painted Hall Café to its visitors and the local Greenwich community,” says Andrew Bapniah, operations director for CH&CO. “It’s important that visitors have a quality café to enjoy throughout the course of the day, with an offer that reflects the destination.
“As a destination for tourists and locals, consistent high quality is important to deliver a great experience and positive impression that sets us apart from the many options on the high street.”
“The Painted Hall Undercroft is a fantastic location for the café, and as part of the incredible conservation project the space has been restored and designed in way that celebrates its history and will make customers feel that they are enjoying a drink and a bite to eat somewhere very special.”
A draw for nautical fanatics and film enthusiasts – Pirates
of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Les Misérables, Cinderella and Skyfall are just a few of the blockbusters filmed there recently – the Painted Hall has also been reintroduced into the portfolio of unique event spaces available for private hire.
CH&CO’s expertise in event catering and management means it will oversee the hospitality for a variety of events, including corporate dinners and receptions, gala dinners, launch parties and fashion shows, special occasions and weddings.
Guests will be able to enjoy bespoke and creative food – from canapés to banquets – surrounded by a wealth of history and stunning architecture.
“The work in the Painted Hall is phenomenal,” adds Bapniah. “The venue is exquisite, and the CH&CO Events team looks forward to creating memorable events for clients in this unique and stunning space.”
“We’re delighted to be working with the team at CH&CO to bring a high-quality experience to our visitors with a customer service and food offering that perfectly complements the splendour and spectacle of the newly conserved Painted Hall”, says Xanthe Arvanitakis, director of visitor experience and commercial for the Old Royal Naval College.
Painted Hall Café Sample Menu
Selection of warmed Artisan bakery pastries
All butter croissants, pain au chocolat, rhubarb and custard Danish, apricot croissant, Bramley apple and raisin Danish
Drinks over ice
Fresh squeezed orange juice & apple juice
Immune Boosting Smoothie
Breakfast bowls (made to order) Cranberry & pistachio granola Coconut yoghurt & passion fruit curd Bircher muesli, apples, medjool dates & cashews
Market Bowl Salads – all vegan
Moroccan spiced carrot, quinoa, preserved lemon, coconut yoghurt dressing
Heritage beets, green beans, toasted walnuts
Roasted summer squash, quinoa, sunflower seeds, spelt and apple balsamic
Mixed leaf salad
Tart of the day
Spring pea, English asparagus and roasted red onion tart
Scotch egg/Sausage roll
Wild mushroom & black pudding sausage roll
Courgette fritter with coconut tzatziki
Deli Planks and Toasties
Roast chicken, gem lettuce, vine tomato and homemade salad cream
Keen’s mature cheddar and roast tomato chutney on stone-baked sourdough
Forman’s London cure smoked salmon, cream cheese and black pepper on Brick Lane bagels
Portobello mushroom, Somerset brie and red onion marmalade
Hot Dishes (Chalk board)
Potato and spring onion soup
Macaroni cheese, smoked ham hock and crushed peas
Charred butternut, coconut & black pepper cream, cauliflower tabbouleh (vegan)
Half portion of adult hot dishes
Pasta, tomato sauce and parmesan
Chicken strips, chips and beans
All Day Cakes
Banana and walnut loaf cake
Lemon and poppy seed cake
Blueberry crumble cake
Giant Jammie Dodgers