Restaurant review: Pharmacy 2 by Damien Hirst, London

Pharmacy 2 Newport Street Gallery Summer Lates
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Pharmacy 2, the restaurant within Newport Street Gallery and collaboration between artist Damien Hirst and chef Mark Hix has started its ‘Summer Lates’ programme remaining open until 2am once a month. The next event is scheduled to take place Saturday 24 September night.

Pharmacy 2 Newport Street Gallery Summer Lates

Newport Street Gallery

Before we ascend to the second floor restaurant, let’s take a minute (or 20 – closer to the time you’ll need) to wander through Newport Street Gallery itself.

We arrived about 8.30pm on a Saturday to admire the art before settling down for a later supper, followed by drinks and a late-night DJ set, which lasted until 2am.

Free entry and artwork from Hirst’s private collection are just two of the excellent reasons to visit. The current exhibition Now, running until 16 October 2016, is a collection of pieces by Jeff Koons including ‘Inflatables’, ‘Equilibrium’ and his more recent ‘Play-Doh’.

Works are split across six rooms, with one room featuring pieces from his previous series Made in Heaven about sexuality being both a subject and an object – enjoy onlookers’ awkward/erotic reactions to this room as much as the art itself.

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Pharmacy 2 Newport Street Gallery Summer Lates

Pharmacy 2

Pharmacy 2 is named after both the 1992 work ‘Pharmacy’ by Hirst and as an homage to his previous Pharmacy Restaurant, which closed in 2003. Pharmacy 2 gives visitors the opportunity to view some of Hirst’s own art whilst dining, which here reflects his interest in science, medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Mesmerised by attention to detail – the interior design, the glass flasks as light shades, the array of medicines on display and of course the backlit butterfly kaleidoscope paintings – you will be forgiven for exclaiming, as we did, ‘This is SO Hirst!’

The ‘classic British and European food’ menu is slightly more pretentious than we expected for a south-of-the-river establishment and we could see little connection between the venue and menu apart from the photographs of medicine bottles on the covers.

To start we ordered a summer vegetable salad with Graceburn cheese (£7.95) and a Burratina with tomato and bush basil salad (£7.25). The salad contained what we assumed to be artichoke – having had all the flavour cooked out of it, the origins of this vegetable were hard to deduce. The lightly dressed Burratina, seasoned with fresh thyme, was creamy and light, and with fresh, ripe tomatoes was our preference. Visiting on another occasion, the jellied gazpacho (£6.95) and alliums with whipped goat’s curd and toasted hazelnuts (£7.95) both impressed with creativity and presentation.

Of the main courses, we chose the roasted fillet of cod with peperonata and pesto (£22.50) and the steak salad with crispy shallots and horseradish (£19.95). The steak, succulent and cooked exactly to our preference, served with a generous side of fries, was well executed. The cod dish, although well presented and a balanced combination of flavours, was slightly too flaccid and could have been cooked for a couple of minutes more for perfection. We sampled the curry and tagliatelle items off the vegetarian menu – the former lacked aromatics and the latter drowned the pasta in extra virgin olive oil.

A mini-dessert (all priced at £4) was a pleasant surprise after the main course, with a light, rich and not overly sweet Peruvian Gold chocolate mousse, and creamed black rice with mango and passionfruit, with these flavours even pleasing a latin-American palate. Mark’s suggested Kimono Umeshu Plum Sake (£13) was a thoughtful pairing with the chocolate mousse.

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Final thoughts

For art aficionados, Pharmacy 2 should certainly be near the top of your to-visit list, as a destination offering otherwise unseen Hirst artwork in a restaurant setting. For diners, booking is definitely recommended. Starters and desserts offer creativity and quality, but be vegetarian menu should be selected with caution. Two courses, a drink and service will cost approx £35. Before deserting Pharmacy 2, we recommend the dessert choice of Peruvian Gold chocolate mousse paired with plum sake, for any chocolate lover.

Come for the art, and stay for the late-night dissection of works over cocktails.

Pharmacy 2’s extended opening hours until 2am on Saturdays coincide with Newport Street’s Summer Lates programme, where the gallery remains open until 10pm. During the extended opening, the restaurant offers a new cocktail menu and will play host to live DJs. Once dinner has finished (10.30pm), a shorter selection of light bites are available from 10pm until the early hours, including: cuttlefish croquettes; chicken popcorn; crispy salmon skin with whipped smoked salmon; and chips with curry sauce.

Located on Newport Street, a hop, skip and a jump through Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens will get you halfway there if walking from Vauxhall station.

To book visit pharmacyrestaurant.com or call 0203 141 9333.