Stunning new V&A Members’ Room opens today in former historic study room

V&A Members’ Room. © Rory Gardiner

V&A Members’ Room. © Rory Gardiner

Today, we have opened our new Members’ Room, a characteristic V&A mix of heritage, modernity and design ingenuity. The innovative design by architects Carmody Groarke converts a magnificent top-lit gallery on the top floor of Aston Webb’s Grade I Listed 1909 wing into a beautiful new dedicated space for V&A Members, outfitted with bespoke designed furniture and fittings.

Formerly a study room between 1916 – 21, and later the National Art Library offices, the transformation returns this room to its core principles as a place for contemplation, creative thought and enjoyment. Reinventing this vast space, the room brings cutting edge design together with contemporary furniture and interior decoration, whilst accentuating the qualities of the original building.

Members are able to enjoy a full range of casual and formal dining options provided by Benugo with table service. The hospitality offers range from hot and cold breakfast options, dedicated lunch menu, kids’ choices for families, an all-day café offer including cakes, and cream teas, a bar, and for the first time, a Friday evening set menu.

Download the Members’ Room menu

The new room is a cornerstone offer as part of a range of V&A Membership benefits that include free entry to exhibitions, a 10% discount in the V&A Shop, a range of dedicated events and subscription to the V&A Magazine.

Following hugely popular exhibitions such as David Bowie Is, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty and Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, and the launch of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter this summer, the Museum has increased its visitor figures and gained the support of a significant number of new Members. The new V&A Members’ Room reflects the important role that Members play in supporting the Museums activities and collections.

Designed by Carmody Groarke, the creative adaption of the original gallery is part of the natural continuum of the Museum fabric; new designs subtly restore and retain existing character whilst bespoke lighting and furniture bring visitors closer to brilliant design.

The floor has been created using reclaimed parquet flooring taken from across the Museum and raised by almost half a metre to give views from the large existing windows to The Sackler Courtyard, the world’s first porcelain public courtyard, paved in 11,000 handmade tiles which opened this June.

V&A Members’ Room. © Rory Gardiner

View of the new Sackler Courtyard from the V&A Members’ Room. © Rory Gardiner

The centrepiece of the Members’ Room is a monolithic terrazzo bar, a contemporary interpretation of the white marble entrance staircase to the room. The bar includes prosecco on tap, a range of bottled beers, wine, and bespoke cocktails including a unique Queen Victoria and Prince Albert cocktail, inspired by the Museum’s royal namesakes.

Sitting above the 20th century collections, the furniture provides a subtle link to the era, including a recommissioning of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto’s stackable 403 armchair from the early 1930s. Other pieces include chairs and marble coffee tables designed by Carmody Groarke and bar stools by HAY.

Large mirror installations create new perspectives to view the Museum, both inside and outside, via a light well that connects to the existing galleries below and original gallery light fittings have been reinterpreted in the design of a new fluted-glass luminaire hanging in glowing clusters overhead, designed by Carmody Groarke. A beautiful Alessi tea service, designed by Kristiina Lassus, brings hints of designer Richard Sapper up to the present day. The crockery is from Stoke-on-Trent based manufacturer Churchill’s, and the cutlery from Jasper Morrison’s cutlery collaboration with Muji.

The new Members’ Reception Desk is located downstairs in the former Exhibition Road Entrance Lobby, recently remodelled by Reed Watts Architects.

The new V&A Members’ Room has been made possible by the generosity of V&A Members.

Become a V&A Member today

 

51 thoughts on “Stunning new V&A Members’ Room opens today in former historic study room

Renate Fichtinger:

Hello – absolutely LOVE the look of this new venue! I work in the Events industry and would be thrilled to offer this exciting space to potential clients. Is the venue available for hire to non-members?

Georgia Burg:

Oh, looks lovely. I joined in August and look forward to enjoying this new area on my next UK trip.

Sarah Worker:

Hopefully Benugo will be providing a considerably better service than myself and my guest experienced yesterday in the main cafe’/restaurant. All of the trays available at the cake area were dirty, not just a smear here and there but large pieces of discarded food, also one of the cups provided for the tea was smeared with brown marks, who knows what, a clean one was provided. I will be requesting that the facilities are inspected, it is surprising that clients have not reported food poisoning.
I have been a V&A member for several years but will be thinking very hard before renewing this membership.

EIJA MAY:

As a member I celebrated my umpteenth birthday in the new Room as you considerately opened it on The Day! I was accompanied by one daughter & 2 granddaughters and we much enjoyed a good lunch with cocktails,wine,hot main courses, followed by coffees and cake.We found the standard of food good.The only hiccup was the slowness of service, we put it down to being the first day, – was also the first day of our charming waitress,who did made a mess with one of the orders
Overall 9/10, well done!
PS being an elderley member I found the out-of-order lift a nuisance, -no improvement there from the lift to the previous Members’ Room.

Older Member:

The old members room offered a grateful escape from the echoey, clangy, crockery-clashing acoustic in the main restaurant. As an old member, I avoided it even before becoming a V&A member.

Now, seeing the hard, bare surfaces of the new room, I fear the worst in acoustic terms. Kew Gardens’ Orangery addressed this with unobtrusive fabric hung high up on the walls, and what a difference that made. So even if acoustics haven’t been part of the refurbishment design, it’s possible to quietly improve sound levels in bright, modern food-service areas.

Annette O'Carroll:

The old members’ room was perfect and always a peaceful haven. I’m very sad that you changed it to this

Julia McCormack:

I agree that the old members’ room was a peaceful haven. This looks beautifully designed but looks as if it will be anything but peaceful. It would be nice to have a space for adults only too.

Karl Meuller:

Emperors new clothes…maybe issuing easy seating passes will have the patrons feeling more exclusive, except everyone will be rammed into a corridor staring out at white block paving. Who’s kidding who!

Clare Ash:

what are the plans for disabled access to the new members room?

It would be most disappointing to arrive to find the only access was stairs.
Will there be a totally reliable lift?

Ruth:

Alas I didn’t know the new members’ room was opened today, so we had an expensive and tasteless ‘proper’ lunch in the main cafe – over chilled food, the only flavour being dominating coriander (a real dislike), and uncooked chives. Please pass my comments on to Benugo. The menu of the new members room looks enticing and more reasonable, and the afternoon tea too that’s offered on two days a week I think – so I look forward to visiting – though I too will mourn the calm oasis of the old members’ room.

Maggie smith:

I loved the old members room..and spent much time showing it off to my guest…many of which joined as well…I will try out the new room befor making further comments,..but am still sad

Maggie smith:

I loved the old members room..and spent much time showing it off to my guest…many of which joined as well…I will try out the new room befor making further comments,..

Nicola Keeble:

This may be considered a lovely setting if you want to eat in a restaurant/bar but it does not replicate what members had in the previous members room. That was a peaceful retreat from the rest of the museum where there was never an issue in finding somewhere to sit. This is an enormous room that is effectively a corridor with hard surfaces so it is impossible to find any escape from the frenetic activity of all the waiting staff and people. I would also suggest that having table service, when all you want is a coffee and cake is utterly ridiculous and you need to find a happy balance. Very disappointing.

Dorothy Gonsalves:

You can also orderfrom the bar. I thought the new space was wow! Loved the view over the new courtyard. And the menu on a Friday evening looks nice. Will definitely use it a lot.

Annette O'Carroll:

“Reinventing this vast space” – exactly. How can a vast space for which the main function is serving food be a”Members’ Room”. Did the members really want this? The former room, with people reading on the mezzanine, chatting on the grey leather sofas and the view of trees through the large windows was a beautiful space and the mirrored entrance through the glass gallery was magical. Can’t we keep that as well?

joan sargent:

If membership has increased so much, why not keep the old members room as well. They have kept it at Tate Modern. Thank goodness.

Rich:

Is there a quiet space in the new members room, the old one was very peaceful.

Can you keep both open?

Peter B:

I think the word “stunning” sums it up nicely. Trouble is, not everyone wants to be stunned. As an addition to the existing members’ room it would be fine. But sadly as a replacement I know the peaceful retreat of the original members’ room will be sorely missed. It was such a wonderful space.

I visited the new members’ room yesterday. It was very pleasant but not a place to go and relax. I really hope that the V&A will give some serious thought to retaining the original sanctuary.

John Whitelaw:

I too loved the old members’ room; a lovely gentle oasis. Why hasn’t the V&A kept that as well? The new members’ room is in effect a restaurant.
We visited the new members’ room for the first time today. The service is so slow we walked out in the morning after waiting for at least fifteen minutes for a waiter to acknowledge our presence never mind take an order.
We ate there in the afternoon. We managed to get served by intentionally intercepting a waiter.
The food was fine.
But the experience is nowhere near as lovely as the old room.

Sally Jayne:

As others have mentioned, members want a members room not just another restaurant. Please can consideration be given to somehow ‘breaking’up the imposing area to make it more welcoming as a place to sit & while away an hour.

Julian Bellmont:

Loved the new Opera Exhibition. After wards we thought would go and relax in the new members room. It is stunning, well done.
However when it came to ordering a snack, like a V&A Club sandwich or a wrap, we could not. We only had a set menu to choose from with an eye opening price to match. None of which took my fancy.
Please V&A, the old room was perfect, please don’t lose the character of he old with the new.

Sue-Anne:

We visited around 6 o’clock last night after attending the Opera exhibition. This is a restaurant, not a members’ room; and not a very comfortable or effective restaurant. The service was slow and haphazard with diners who had arrived after we did finishing their meals while we waited for ours. There appeared to be plenty of waiting staff congregating in certain areas but no direction and no sense of customer service, with the exception of one or two who appeared to be the only staff tasked with taking people’s orders. We eventually left at 7.30, before our main course arrived, and not being charged for our starter and glass of wine did not compensate for the stressful and disappointing end to our visit.

Jim marrett:

In the new room there is nowhere comfortable to sit. As you go in there are poorly padded benches against each wall and it has all the charm of a bus station waiting room. Then there is all the dark brown woodwork, which continues into the very dark toilets. The whole area is geared towards selling Benugo’s over-priced food & drink. My advice would be for Carmody Groarke to take a look at the Welcome Institute top floor suite of rooms, where there are comfortable armchairs, bean bags etc.& a separate food area. My question is why didn’t someone in the Members’ Room office pick up on this disaster of a room when it was in the planning stage?
I was so uncomfortable on those hard, hard benches and the hard upright chairs, I took myself off to the Clore section of the British galleries where there are some comfortable seats.

Marie-F Hartland-Swann:

This is not a Members’ room, it’s a restaurant for Members. I can’t believe that no-one at the V & A understands the difference. Where is there a comfortable place to sit and mull over the exhibition one has just seen and gather one’s thoughts and energies before setting off for home? I like to read quietly through the catalogue I have often just bought, preferably relaxing on a sofa with a cup of tea, away from the hurly-burly of the main museum. It doesn’t look like I shall have much chance of relaxation in the new space with plenty of hard spaces for the noise and clatter of the catering to bounce off.

Margot Jones:

Unfortunately I also have to agree with the other members who mourn the loss of the quiet haven that was the old members room – a wonderful place to relax quietly with a cup of coffee and re-energise. Last Sunday afternoon we tried to take a break in the new room and gave up waiting in the queue to be seated. It was also too noisy so rather than relaxing was stressful. A trip outside the museum to a coffee shop near the Tube was our solution to this situation.

J colwell:

I can only agree with the previous negative comments on this new space. I like the decor and the lighting and the overall design but while I was always surprised at the small size of the old members’ room this new one does feel less than peaceful with chaotic service and over priced food. How can a simple scone cost over £4! And a dry one at that!
I cannot believe someone thought unisex toilets would be the way to go. While I have no problems with sharing the same space with men it is a well known fact that their aim is not great.

Ian Watts:

Yes, very disappointed to turn up today to find the cosy and civilised members’ room closed and to be redirected to what is essentially a swanky restaurant. Whilst a perfectly reasonable place to enjoy a meal, the new members’ room has an entirely different vibe to the old quiet retreat that was an ideal place to spend an hour or two after viewing the exhibits. The V&A really should have consulted its members before making such a drastic change. A real shame.

Helen Toft:

When is the Benugo contract up for renewal.? The food quality and service has deteriorated and while I always used to have lunch when visiting I now eat at cafes/ restaurants outside the museum. I believe Benugo has become slack and need replacing.

Jill Burrington:

I went alone to visit the new Members’ Room yesterday, planning to sit and have a coffee. I’m afraid I was put off by the formal restaurant set-up which seems very unwelcoming. I echo the feelings of other members in saying what a joy it was to sit quietly, casually and comfortably in the old Members’ Room with the trees outside and the light pouring in, away from the hustle and noise of the Museum.

Jadwiga Adey:

Yes! This is a fancy, modern restaurant, not a members’ room; and not a very comfortable or effective restaurant (15 min wait for a cup of coffee). Can we please keep the old members’ room for a quiet sit down with a coffee? And self service snacks?
Tate Britain comes out first as far as members’ rooms are concerned.

Lorraine:

Rename this space the Members’ Restaurant and maybe some of the confusion/annoyance will abate. So we’ve gained an elegant (if expensive) place to eat and drink but we’ve lost a calm, relaxing space to linger and enjoy. I’m sorry to say this seems to be more about profit than people and I only hope some sensible provision will be made in the near future to address the gap.

John Weston:

I visited the new members room on October 7th at 11:15. It was not a pleasant experience. Firstly, we had to wait several minutes to be seated, even though there were plenty of staff nearby who were busy chatting to each other. The order was taken, coffee arrived, but staff forgot about the pastries. When we went to pay, we were overcharged by £5. I would go there again to show friends the fabulous design of the room, but not use it for food or drink. It would be good to reopen the old members room ALSO, I would not hesitate using that.

Janet Wolchover:

I have to agree with some of the negative comments already made. We visited the ‘Opera’ exhibition today and used the new members’ room. It looks lovely but the service was very slow (over 10 minutes for two coffees) and it seemed more like a restaurant (with the table service and wait to be seated). Also I was surprised by the unisex toilets-surely there was enough space to provide separate facilities?

Francesca:

Wow, this is a fantastic renovation. The interior is so spacious, light and airy, and the view of the brickwork from the outside is also stunning. The lighting brings out the heritage features of the study room, while also highlighting the modern elements. This kind of project is what architecture is all about.

Heather Parry:

I visited the new Members’ Room at 12.30 pm on 29th September. Surely someone realized it would be very busy? Clearly not! I waited an hour to be seated and served a pot of tea, cup, milk and an open sandwich. In the previous room it would not have taken more than 10 minutes. I never got a bill. In order to be in my seat for the 2 pm lecture I had to work out what I owed and leave some money on the table, overpaying of course because I didn’t have the right change. On this occasion it was no more an “oasis of calm” than the public cafe. At the same time there are no longer any daytime events. Those still taking place are held in the evening, necessitating waiting outside the museum in the dark and cold. I don’t think I’ll renew my membership next year.

Asif Chaudry:

I would echo the feeling of others above. Whilst the overall aesthetic is pleasing,the dominant ambience is one of constant movement, a bit like a station restaurant, a space overly controlled by the ever present waiting staff. This impinges on any sense of the space being an exclusive retreat in which members can relax. Perhaps a series of lattice work screens could be introduced to give members more options. Even the more lounge like space at the far end of the room is arranged in restaurant format as ‘waited space’ effectively controlled by Benugo. Would definitely benefit from more of a relaxed feel, perhaps with more reading material around.

Heather Parry:

It seems to me that it’s not so much a Members’ Room as a grab of more space by Benugo who, having achieved their aim, haven’t bothered to staff it properly.

Heather Parry:

PS The article about the new Members’ Room in the V & A Magazine is entitled “The new sanctuary for Members” !!!

Sue Stern:

I did fill out the members survey asking what sort of Members’ room was wanted, what sort of facilities etc. It seems that the V&A took absolutely no notice of my comments requesting a quiet space with self-service food. It seems from other comments above that my requests were in line with others. Why has the V&A totally disregarded our wishes? I presume it’s for more profits. If so, you are mistaken V&A because this new space will not encourage membership. The old members’ room was a main reason for joining. Benugo is renowned for bad service.

Lorraine:

Hi V & A Members’ team. Any chance of a response to all the valid concerns posted here?

Terri:

I’ve loved using the members room as a quiet space to get a tea or coffee and maybe a cake and then to spend a few hours doing some work, undisturbed! The idea of a noisy restaurant with table service and queues is the last thing I want not looking forward to visiting it now. Can only hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised but doesn’t sound like it,

Marion Rosmith:

It’s just a restaurant. I went in alone today, had a very nice glass of wine and a teeny tiny portion of ciabatta with a smear of goats cheese and a spoonful of crushed peas. Who had the rest of it? A members’ restaurant is fine but it seems clear that members also want their quiet, restful space to sit and read and perhaps have a light refreshment.

Please respond.

Annette:

I popped in on Tuesday. Overall it was a good experience, but so crowded! My lunch was fine but I did have to hurry up the waiter as I had to be somewhere else at 2 pm. It is not so cosy as the old room but better, I think. A magnificent room and I imagine that as the novelty wears off, it won’t always be so crowded

Ann:

So disappointing – I echo the thoughts of many expressed above. I have a number of memberships to arts organisations (Tate, Southbank Centre, RA, etc.) and all of those manage to have peaceful member rooms where you can grab a quick meal and have a quiet conversation. I used to enjoy taking friends to the ‘secret’ room beyond the glass gallery. This was not a pleasant or welcoming place. I think the table service is a big mistake making it just a restaurant, with mediocre food, poor service and awkward seating. It was busy, so I suppose it must be making money for the V&A, but doesn’t seem to be a real membership perk. Oh well.

James Beardsworth:

Thank you to everyone for your comments and feedback – all this information is invaluable while we review the opening few weeks and consider any changes or new initiatives we could introduce in the future. Our apologies for being slow on the uptake in responding – we are listening and if anyone would like an individual response on any specific points please contact us at membership@vam.ac.uk

We anticipate things slowing down as the opening buzz subsides and the room begins to finds its rhythm. We do however accept that there have been service issues and we are working closely with benugo to iron out any teething issues. We are very sorry if you experienced any poor service and encourage you to contact us directly to report any instances of this. We are pleased to see that improvements have already been made and expect to see even greater steps being taken as we work to implement further improvements.

Please raise any issues with the food or portion size with the on duty benugo manager, at the time of your visit, so that they can resolve this for you immediately.

Thank you again for your comments – we hope you continue to visit and find a time and space to suit your needs as the room evolves. The room is being used by more Members than ever engaged with our former spaces. All the reading material from the old space has moved over to the new room and we will be constantly reviewing levels of comfort, acoustics and service.

Membership Team

Harvey Howlett:

A huge disappointment. The high hard reflective surfaces are bouncing sound – this must be addressed if ‘haven’ is ever to be achieved.

Sadly the service was lacking, slow and haphazard. The apology for the forgotten order, rather less than fulsome.

Where now a quiet space I can retreat from the museum and write up a journal, or have a quiet conversation to critically evaluate an exhibition, or read up over a quick coffee before studying the collections. This is meant to be a museum.

Fine for a meal if you can get the service sorted, but
not a Members room in any real sense.

Heather Parry:

Having afternoon tea there today was an improvement on my previous visit. However the staff do not understand that it is a Members’ Room, not a restaurant, and members should not have to stand waiting to be seated when there are plenty of seats available, while three of four members of staff walk past them and the three or four behind the bar ignore them. I thought the tea pots a big improvement but the one I was given today threw tea all over the table until it was a quarter empty. Has it already been dropped and damaged or did it start that way? There’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Jim Marrett:

I do hope someone in the Members’ Office will take notice of these comments and give us back a proper Members’ Room. We need somewhere peaceful and quiet,with comfortable seating and not this Benugo set up.

Helen Rouse:

I visited the new ‘Members’ Room’ on Tuesday 17/10 and can only agree with all those Members who have commented that this is just a restaurant – headache-inducing over-bright lighting, noisy, (with, following an unwelcome new trend, unisex loos ! ), but no sense that this is a special place for those who care enough about the V and A to buy membership and support the museum. I really enjoyed taking friends to the old Members’s Room, which was an oasis of calm, and a civilised place to read or talk quietly with a tea or coffee. Why has it not been possible to retain this room which was so well-loved ? I am disappointed and will not be patronising this new space,

Robert Lamoon:

As a V and A member for some time I was so excited to visit the new members’ room yesterday. Oh dear what a great disappointment. This is not a members’ room, it is a soulless, noisy, uncomfortable restaurant. The old room, although small, was a quiet place to sit, think and contemplate. Surely contemplation is what the V and A is about.
The design of this room is so bland and 21C dumbing down. Here you could be anywhere. There is no feeling of being in the beautiful building that is the V and A. The use of mirrors only add to the hard surfaces that conspire to amplify the noise levels, coupled with nasty lighting producing a headache inducing environment.
Although I will continue to be a member, I definitely will not use this room again. My only hope is that the old room will be reopened and continue to be a place of refuge.
I fear I will not receive a reply to this comment, nor will I be listened to.

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