The Gallery Mess Restaurant, Bar & Café at Saatchi Gallery is not your typical gallery café. Its quiet elegance and simple design give new meaning to the phrase, ‘Made in Chelsea’. The vibe is posh but you won’t find any half-wit snobbery here, just good food, friendly service and a relaxing yet sophisticated atmosphere.
Run by Rhubarb Food Design, the restaurant takes its name from the former Duke of York’s officer’s mess, though that is where the similarity ends. Amidst the exposed brickwork and austere white walls an eclectic display of contemporary artworks (available for sale, by the way) adorns the walls of the modern dining room. Neon installations, for instance, featuring a woman on all fours emanating celestial shapes from her arse and a large neon cockerel shake things up by injecting humour and contrast to the otherwise general air of refinement. The artistic theme permeates throughout including the lavatory where guests will find a wall-mounted soap installation by artist Celine Fitoussi.
Overall the main dining room is airy and full of light with large windows overlooking Duke of York Square. There is also a more private dining area just beyond the main room and a wonderful outdoor terrace.
The menu is constantly changing boasting a range of seasonal fresh ingredients from burgers and fish and chips to innovative pasta dishes, for example, beetroot ravioli and more upscale dishes such as fillet mignon and poached sea trout medallion. For those seeking lighter fare, their homemade pastries and coffee are a delightful treat anytime.
The extensive bar selection including an international wine list is stylishly presented behind the elongated bar in the main dining area, a colourful work of art in itself. But alas being pregnant during my visit, I could not indulge. Instead I enjoyed a freshly squeezed apple and cucumber juice which despite its frothy, murky green appearance invigoratingly “hit the spot”.
My husband and I started with a charcuterie plate and a red mullet salad which were both served in generous portions exuding freshness and packed with flavour.
For our main course he opted for the Beer Battered Cod and Chips. The traditional favourite was cooked to perfection, light and crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. I chose the gnocchi with asparagus in herb sauce and found it so delectable that I couldn’t help but clean the plate. We finished off the meal with foamy cappuccinos and deliciously creamy homemade ice cream.
At Gallery Mess you will pay more than at your average cafeteria style museum/gallery but this is not surprising given its Chelsea address and it’s well worth the price. On your way out don’t forget to pick up a homemade loaf or bag of coffee.
Gallery Mess, Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 (020-7730 8135)
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