Review: Gallery Mess
The Saatchi Gallery's eatery is no ordinary museum café
For the most part, I am what you would call architecturally ignorant. I am, however, strangely partial to a high ceiling. It can't help but add an element of grandness to the occasion when the roof above you is of near celestial elevation.
This was one of the first things I noticed when I ambled into Gallery Mess. On one of the sunniest days of the year, light poured in through the open doors, illuminating the long room under its marvellously lofty ceiling. Forget the eminent Saatchi gallery attached - the restaurant floor alone was like wandering into a particularly resplendent painting. Along with a buzzing crowd and smiling staff, the atmosphere was instantly inviting.
Sipping on a refreshing glass of Prosecco (not too sweet) we were informed that a few of the menu’s dishes were not available. On the eve of the Olympics, with road closures galore, there had been a few supply chain issues. Thankfully there was still plenty to tempt.
To start I opted for the mille feuille of goats cheese and beetroot. The tart cheese and earthy beetroot is a popular pairing, but for good reason. The pretty dish comprised a generous amount of goats cheese, and yet it wasn’t at all heavy, simply whetting the appetite as a starter should. My guest went for the prosciutto and caramelised pear salad which, I’m informed, was slightly light on pear but teeming with slices of fragrant, almost sweet prosciutto.
Gregg, Mess’s charming manager, patiently talked us through the decent wine list and advised us to try the Pinot Blanc. It was exactly as he described: crisp and clean with a delicate flavour of apple. It also had a dry finish, which made it easy to sip slowly and savour while we tucked into our main courses.
My guest’s corn fed chicken breast was hearty, the meat grilled to succulence and complemented by a simple, herby tabbouleh. My seabass was similarly cooked to perfection. A firm fillet with a crispy skin, it would have been flavoursome enough to eat alone, and yet the citrus butter sauce added a satisfying richness. The accompanying green beans were fresh and al dente, while the saffron potatoes were perhaps a touch too firm, although not enough to spoil the overall effect of the dish. Both our main courses were on the salty side, but on such a hot day, this only added to their appeal.
Gallery Mess’ pudding menu is rather fruity, in the most literal sense. I like my puddings stodgy (I always have room for a good old sticky toffee) so the peach melba and little chocolate truffles we selected were a bit of a sweet departure from the norm. The former was an explosion of cream and soaked peaches served in a long milkshake-type glass. It is essentially a grown-up spin on a childlike fancy, designed to keep your inner five-year-old happy. The truffles were a slightly more grown up offering, achieving the ideal balance of bitterness and butteriness. And with eight truffles per plate, it’s a indulgent - and dare I say, sticky toffee-rivalling - end to the meal.
Still enjoying the high-ceilinged ambience, my guest and I remained at our table long after finishing (a cocktail or two may have slipped down – both excellent and reasonably priced) and were not rushed off as the restaurant began to empty for the night.
In fact, I’m now thinking the best way to enjoy Gallery Mess is to make a day of it. Head there for lunch, have a mosey round the gallery in the afternoon, and end back up there for dinner. I will most likely be there, eyes on the roof and truffles in hand.
For more information, visit www.rhubarb.net/Venues/Gallery-Mess
Daily tip from the lady archive
"BEAUTY may fade and riches be lost, but a sense of humour ripens with the years, and cannot be stolen. It remains a very real solace, and a talisman against the ills of life."The Lady. The Invaluable Possession 2nd May, 1912