38 � squaremeal.co.uk
Newport Street Gallery, Newport Street, SE11 6AJ
020 3141 9333 £££
It's like a chemically-induced flashback to the late 1990s:
Damien Hirst has resurrected his long-closed Notting Hill
restaurant Pharmacy, opening it in Vauxhall and coming
into partnership with Mark Hix - whose lusty, ingredientsled
influence on the modern British menu is apparent.
You'll find the new dining room within Hirst's Newport
Street Gallery, tucked down an anonymous Vauxhall
road, facing the train line from Waterloo. Its bright, crisp
interior is stuffed with Hirst's work, from the butterfly
Kaleidoscope paintings to the Medicine Cabinets. Bar stools
have been transformed into giant tablets; colourful pills
are embroidered onto bright blue banquettes.
On our midday visit, the venue was half-full with ladieswho-lunch
and hip young art-lovers. Staff were congenial,
but service was leisurely - we waited ages for main courses.
Hix's menu highlights top-quality raw materials, simply
served: Glenarm Estate beef; Hix-cure smoked salmon;
and snacks including delectable cuttlefish croquettes with
inky-black centres, in a pool of wild-garlic mayonnaise.
A long list of starters is as bright and airy as the venue
itself. �e soft white polenta with Braddock White duck
egg and shaved Norcia truffles was a silky, rich bowlful;
our friendly waitress shaved the mound of black truffle at
the table. It was earthy, inviting, incredibly moreish. Hix's
classic 'heaven and earth' starter also appears, comprising
softly spiced black pudding atop a contrasting pile of sweet
mashed apple and potato. �e mains focus on marine life;
our smoked haddock with poached egg and colcannon was
comforting, if over-salted. Mini puddings (reasonable at
£4) are designed to share; don't miss the refreshing poached
Yorkshire rhubarb with saffron ice cream.
Add the well-edited wine choice and concise cocktail
list, and Pharmacy 2 might well be a prescription for
success - if it overcomes the isolated location.
MUST ORDER Soft white polenta with duck egg and tru�es
16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH
020 7836 4422 £££
Gregory Marchand is in demand. We ate at his Paris wine bar (there's
a six-month wait for the much-lauded bistro) and were seduced by
his assured cooking. So we were chuffed to discover he was opening a
London outpost with the same name. In fact Frenchie is a nickname.
As well as training at the Savoy Grill, Marchand worked with Jamie
Oliver at Fifteen, who coined the moniker for this Nantes-born chef.
Set designer Emilie Bonaventure's stylish interiors combine city
chic with a hipster vibe. It's polished but laid-back - much like the
welcoming service. �ere's no six-month wait for tables either: the
ground-floor dining room features 18 bar seats for walk-ins, while
the basement with its open kitchen accommodates larger groups.
�e fixed-price lunch menu (£22/28 for two/three courses) offers
three options for each course, but dinner choices are more extensive,
with plates designed for sharing. Deceptively simple menu listings
translate into artful dishes, where every ingredient plays its part.
Silky textured hot-smoked trout is backed by rustic Brussel
tops and a scattering of micro-herbs. Al dente pappardelle ribbons
are wrapped in a meaty Elwy Valley lamb sauce, given depth by
Kalamata olives and Espelette pepper. Juicy chicken sits in a pool of
rich jus, with a brilliant dot of Meyer lemon purée adding citrus zing.
To finish, bitter-sweet chocolate tart was topped with flakes of
Maldon sea salt and accompanied by lusciously smooth bacon ice
cream for a thrilling combo of sweet and savoury.
�e sharing concept works for two; with more you may feel shortchanged.
However, that's our only gripe. When Frenchie launched
Marchand said: "I wanted to create a lively, yet relaxed place where
you want to return again and again." We'd say he's succeeded.
This list from head sommelier
Bastien Ferreri is one for
thrill-seekers. Take a punt
on the orange wine, perhaps, or
bottles from interesting boutique
producers. It's a quirky selection but
has enough safe choices to please
the traditionalists too. BEST BUY Ciu
Ciu Bacchus 2014, Marche, Italy, £28.
MUST ORDER Lamb pappardelle