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Gallery Mess and More in Sloane Square:
Londoners have travelled to Sloane Square for as long as I can remember. Peter Jones, that bastion of middle class essentials, sits on one corner, The Royal Court Theatre is opposite. Next door, the ill-fated Oriel Restaurant has been replaced by a very similar offering from The Colbert and just across the road is The Botanist. I’ve been starting or finishing shopping trips here ever since I first moved to London (thirty years ago). Not much has changed. The hipness of the Kings Road waxes and wanes, but Peter Jones is a stabilising influence on the whole area. We all come back – it’s the best place in London to buy moth balls and make-up, silver polish and shoes, posh tights and pretty dresses, cushions and new towels. All in one place.
What has changed though, is the area known as Duke of York’s Square. It was still in use as Army Barracks when I first moved here and as a result there was a strange disconnect between Sloane Square and the shops along the Kings Road. Redeveloped into Duke of York’s Square just over ten years ago, it now feels as if it’s always been there. And, the range of shops and cafes together with regular food markets and events have really added to an already good if at times slightly sterile offering.
Gallery Mess is the restaurant offering from Rhubarb. I’ve been a few times now, for events, for afternoon tea and to review the lunch menu. This time, for a dinner with a group of bloggers, we were hoping for better weather so that we could dine alfresco on the pretty terrace, but it wasn’t to be. However, great company and excellent food makes up for any bad weather.
After a glass of champagne we sat down to choose our food. Giving eight bloggers the a la carte menu to pick from is something that could challenge the best of kitchens. And definitely will result in camera overload. We made a pact NOT to photograph everything everyone else was eating…though most of us had a pretty good try at doing so!
The menu hasn’t changed much since I last visited, but I was told that there was a new chef and certainly the quality and consistency of the food seemed better. Last time, I would have recommended Gallery Mess as somewhere to eat if you happened to be in the area. This time I’d suggest it’s worth making the journey.
My choice of starter was the Marinated Scallops – nice plump specimens on a swirl of pea puree and with some crunchy wafers of pancetta on the side. I couldn’t taste the fennel pollen through the marinade, but it’s such a subtle flavour that may just have been my jaded pallet because I could see it clearly on the plate.
I was just a little jealous of those who feasted on Rock Oysters and on Gin and Tonic cured salmon. Food envy is a real weakness of mine, and can be my downfall – if I get the chance I’ll try everything. At Gallery Mess, everything is appetising. There’s a good selection of seafood, some charcuterie, salads and soups on offer, some of which would be adequate for a light lunch.
For my main course, I ordered the fillet steak. I’ve got a bit fed up with restaurants serving what seem to me to be impossibly large steaks – here the fillet is 160g which is about right for me and is priced accordingly.
My rare steak arrived perfectly cooked with a small but perfectly formed salad. A side order of fries were crunchy and a little too morish.
Others at the table had been more adventurous – a lavender honey glazed duck breast looked perfectly cooked and sounds wonderful. And the half lobster was a feast.
Our waiter was charming and helpful to the point of recommending my dessert before I’d asked. Who could refuse Champagne poached peaches with rose water sorbet though? Across the table a friend asked why I’d been offered that in particular while his recommendation was crumble. Perhaps it was a reflection on the number champagne top-ups I’d had during pre-dinner drinks, or just a kind offering of the low-calorie dessert to save my waistline. Or perhaps it was a bit of both? What ever the logic, it was delicious, a light and delicate summery dish that worked well as a palate cleanser at the end of the meal. I did suffer from another bout of food envy though at the sight of the chocolate fondant
All in, we had a splendid evening, so many thanks to Duke of York Square for hosting us and to the various shops and restaurants who provided some lovely samples of their wares. Not that I need too much encouragement to go back!