Recently our Lady in London, Sorcha Stott-Strzala, was invited to Gallery Mess to sample their wonderful Afternoon Tea. Here's what she thought:
Chelsea has an undoubted reputation as the place to be seen and The Gallery Mess offers a platform for this sort of show. With a line of tables on either side as you enter, all eyes are on you as you walk down a catwalk to your table, in a ‘Hall of Mirrors’ style shoot. Attached to the Saatchi, The Gallery Mess brings new meaning to the humble and understated cafe to pop into for a sit down and cuppa after seeing an exhibition. The main exhibit in The Gallery Mess is you and your fellow Chelsea girls and boat-shoe wearing sons who've sauntered in casually from the Kings Road, and if you don’t fit into these categories when you enter, you feel like you do when you leave.
The vibe is sophisticated and relaxed. The simple cutlery and thin china crockery, are sparsely set on the white, traditional table cloth, setting the scene for the elegant and (surprisingly) understated afternoon tea to come. The Gallery Mess offers a ‘modern afternoon tea’ in a modern dining room, yet the architectural backdrop of exposed brickwork and white groin vaulted ceilings really emphasises tradition.
The menu is not extensive when it comes to Afternoon Tea with the only choice being whether you want or don’t want the Pommery NV Brut Champagne, perhaps working on the principle of having something successful and simple, and sticking to it. The Gallery Mess is less like an officers eatery as its name suggests, but more like a Japanese verandah, a roofed but open pillared gallery with a feel of indoor/outdoor space, fresh with natural light which hits the glass teapots, making them sparkle. The view is of a private school field filled with children playing lacrosse in perfectly dirty uniforms, a little (and sweet) reminder that you're in an upmarket neighborhood.
The fruit tarts (raspberry, blueberry and cranberry) were too tart and much too small for one person but the pastry was excellent with no soggy bottoms in sight. The jelly was unrefined but tingled as a necessary palette freshener after the rich and delicious treacle and honeycomb square.
It is obvious that The Gallery Mess is not solely for Afternoon Tea. Although loose leaf and quality for the price, the range of tea is small and the vague history and description of the tea’s given by the staff doesn't cover all bases for an avid and knowledgable tea lover. Despite this however, the staff are the one aspect of the restaurant which prevent it from becoming pretentious and are always on hand for extra cakes - so because of this it was enjoyable having an Earl Grey without any frills.