There are two strikes against Gallery Mess, one of which is not its fault at all, and the other of which arguably is. The first is that restaurants attached to cultural buildings such as art galleries and museums are often terrible; the striking exception, the Rex Whistler at Tate Britain, is closed for much of 2013 for renovation, which means that if you want lunch or dinner after a hard day looking at art, you might well be disappointed by some stringy, insipid and overpriced salad. Secondly, the name. ‘Gallery Mess’? What’s all that about? The restaurant might be attached to Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery, which explains the first part, but ‘mess’, with all its military overtones (and others) is hardly the best of names.
Caveats aside, Gallery Mess is a terrific place. Quiet and discreet enough to avoid the hordes of rampaging Sloanes who colonise the nearby King’s Road, it has the sort of coolly chic atmosphere that seems to be effortlessly achieved across the continent but is sadly lacking in West London. The staff are friendly without being in-your-face or overly formal, and everything augurs well for an excellent meal from the first few minutes.
Having been attempting to follow a diet of sorts in 2013 and combine this with regular visits to London’s top restaurants has been something of a bind (no chips, no bread, no pasta = no fun) but Gallery Mess, perhaps mindful of its potential audience of ladies-who-lunch, makes it easy. Starters of a plate of excellent cured meats and terrines (comparable to Bar Boulud, which is high praise in my book) and pear, chicory and blue cheese salad are really superb, far from absurdly priced and came paired with a couple of decent glasses of Pinot Blanc, which made for a lovely accompaniment.
I had steak, which I think I’ll always order in any restaurant that claims that it has a grill.
For the main course, I had steak, which I think I’ll always order in any restaurant that claims that it has a grill, and it was very good. Alas, no chips (although the ones on the next door table looked tempting), but a veritable battalion of salads, green beans and other healthy things at least helped me think that all this was good for me. My partner-in-dine had chicken breast and butternut squash, which was simple and tasty, and, when paired with a fiery little Malbec came alive in new and interesting ways. We finished off with a cheese plate, which was cheese (by now, you probably know what that is) and made for a delectable end to a lovely meal.
So, the next time you’re wandering through Chelsea and you’re after a stylish, pretty affordable little brasserie, and Colbert’s packed, deviate a little from the beaten track. You won’t be disappointed.
The Gallery Mess, Duke of York’s Square, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY, Tel: +44 20 7730 8135
The name’s a Gallery Mess but the rest doesn’t disappoint
The next time you’re wandering through Chelsea and you’re after a stylish, pretty affordable little brasserie, and Colbert’s packed, deviate a little from the beaten track. You won’t be disappointed.
Alex Larman woke up at the tender age of 23 and, Martin Luther King-like, announced to the world that he had a dream. He was simultaneously going to write the 21st century's answer to Ulysses, direct the film that the bastard child of Scorsese, Kubrick and George Formby might have made and become a global roue on a hitherto unknown scale. Then reality kicked in, and the dream collapsed, in favour of a parlous and occasionally sketchy existence maintained writing about food, drink, film and all the other essential requirements of a modern boulevardier's life.
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