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Review of Gallery Mess:
Finding good places to eat close to Galleries and shops is always useful. Gallery Mess is the restaurant attached to the Saatchi Gallery and, so named because of the military connection of the whole area (there are Barracks and Royal Hospital Chelsea just a few minutes away). The restaurant itself is a great space, with three distinct areas – a cosy inner space, where during lunch service when we were there seemed to be home to all the yummy mummies of Chelsea, a light airy dining space, full of those Chelsea ‘people who lunch’ and a bar – almost empty over lunch but I suspect busier in the evening with the office crowd. I am not sure if the policy of segregating the families was deliberate, but for me, it was very welcome.
We decided to share a British smoked fish platter to start (£14.00). Smoked mackerel rillette was a rich flaky pate of fish wrapped in smoked salmon and very pleasant. Smoked salmon was, I believe, a tiny taster of the beetroot cured salmon offered as a separate menu item, but extremely good for all that. The quail egg was nice with a perfectly runny yolk. Potted Shrimps tasted much better than they looked – I’ve seen a similar dish served in a small ramekin, which somehow seems tidier! What we lacked in fish seemed to be made up with large quantities (6 chunky slices) of sourdough bread. Now, while all the components of the dish were lovely, portion size was just a little unbalanced and disappointing for the price. Or maybe I’m just greedy.
My main course was the special of the day, a beautifully composed dish of cod, aioli, baby broad beans and soft boiled egg. I suspect it sat just a little too long on a heated counter, but the flavours were good and the dish didn’t appear to have suffered other than in appearance.
Similarly, my companion’s Pan Fried Hake looked to have waited around a bit, but he loved the mixture of peperonata, black olive and confit shallots – an excellent Mediterranean style dish. Sides of chips and spinach were perfectly cooked.
Everything sounded wonderful on the menu but I did feel the excellent dishes were a bit let down by the lack of care in service. I would have suspected that it was just our table – we do tend to chat over lunch, but what was served on the tables closest to us looked much the same.
By dessert, I was full and chose the homemade chocolate truffles. Actually, I’ll always choose homemade truffles if they are an option – I really enjoy just having a few mouthfuls of something lovely – and these were great and a good accompaniment to the coffee I ordered. My companion’s chocolate and orange pudding did look good, though, closer to a patisserie dish than I’d expected I had just a twinge of regret at the moment it arrived.
Throughout the meal, we drank Dopff Au Moulin Pinot Blanc – a wine from the Alsace region of France. It’s a lovely light and crisp wine from an old family company with a touch of floral, apple and almond notes. Very easy to drink with both fish dishes.
For me, while I loved the space at Gallery Mess, somehow for me the food lacked wow factor. Which was a shame because all the ingredients were there – wonderful seasonal dishes that were clearly well thought through and beautifully plated up. The best of the dishes for me without a doubt was the stunning Chocolate and Orange pudding. Pricing is very reasonable for what is quite an expensive part of London though, with starters all under £10 and mains around the £15. There’s also a set menu for £19 or £23 for three courses. All in, it’s somewhere I’d happily return for lunch or an early evening meal. Or just for a drink at the bar.
We dined as guests of Gallery Mess
Duke Of York’s HQ,