For a restaurant attached to an art gallery, the Saatchi Gallery restaurant Gallery Mess doesn’t seem to have a lot of actual art going on.
In fact, it was only when I went to find the Ladies at the end of the meal that I was able to see the rather impressive shoe sculpture which was tucked away out of sight of most of the diners.
The way the restaurant is laid out means that either you sit in the the rather airless back room where you get to see the shoe, and a few bits and pieces on the walls, or you sit in the airy, high-ceiled portico which looks out onto the terrace (which I expect is rather fabulous spot for a spot of al fresco lunch in summer) but where we faced brick walls and works of art were few and far between.
The menu showed no signs either that the restaurant had any arty connections at all, which seems a terrible waste of a great way to set yourself apart in London’s highly competitive restaurant scene, and rather failing to capitalise on the fact that Gallery Mess is part of one of London’s most famous galleries.
However the atmosphere last Thursday night was very pleasant, with efficient, friendly service, albeit a slightly hit-and-miss approach to food.
We started, after a bit of a kerfuffle, with a couple of cocktails – the waiter asked if we’d like a glass of champagne, frowned when we asked for two Classic Champagne cocktails (they’re at the top of the drinks list), and then brought us just champagne regardless, but we managed to get the correct drinks after a while – and then beetroot and goat’s cheese salad (£7.50) and marinated scallops with pea puree (£12.50).
The goat’s cheese salad was a big hit, very tasty with a delicious honey and thyme dressing, and the cheese was done really well.
The scallops were fine the second time around: the first they were cold and flabby so had to be returned to the kitchen, but the staff were very apologetic and brought my dining companion some nuts so she had something to eat while I belatedly tucked into my starter once it had returned, perfectly cooked this time.
The mains of salmon fishcakes (£15.50) and line-caught cod (£17.50) were much better, both in cooking and presentation, and we shared a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet (£30) which was very nice if a little on the warm side (we added ice-cubes).
No London restaurant menu is complete without a side of mac ‘n cheese these days, so we duly ordered that too (£4.25 and it was very nice).
We finished off with a well put together cheese board and a delicious creme brulee and even managed a glass each of supersweet Pedro Ximenez sherry which was suggested by the waiter and turned out to be a great idea.
We were almost the last to leave and had certainly enjoyed the evening, but it lacked the ‘wow’ factor which the Saatchi name implied. But sitting outside with a bottle in the sunshine – then no doubt the Gallery Mess will come into its own.
Gallery Mess Café/Bar, Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York HQ, Kings Road SW3 4RY
Tel: 0207 730 8135