I don’t eat lunch or dinner alone in restaurants, more of a guy thing. Room service, fine. But alone in a restaurant, no thanks. Until this week. To be totally honest, I had my first course accompanied – with restaurateur Mark Hix at Pharmacy 2 –
and my second and third courses, very much unaccompanied at Brunswick House. And while I enjoyed Hix’s company a lot, don’t get me wrong, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my own. I could concentrate on the food and flavours, people watch shamelessly, and when that got boring, read my book. Normally, I’m so busy talking or listening that I slightly overlook the food (choked on a watermelon seed once from laughing mid-chew, the lung specialist suggested I not multi-task).
Back to Vauxhall, a concrete jungle apart from a few notable spots, one being Damien Hirst’s medicinally-themed Pharmacy 2 restaurant which opened last week. Pharmacy 2 adjoins Hirst’s sublime Newport Street Gallery. The casual restaurant, a collaboration between Hirst and his long-time buddy Hix, is an edible upper, packed with a kaleidoscope of jellybean-colored pill counters, shelves and stools. Happy-time.
I stumbled upon Hix who was about to blind taste three versions of smoked bacon with a fried egg on top.
Would you like to join?
Let’s be clear, it’s a dish I would normally never order, but when in Rome or Vauxhall …
Good thing, you’re not kosher,
he joked. Low and behold, it was delicious, especially versions one and two.Three was a bit salty.
Mark was totally charming, considering that, like my youngest, smiling comes extra. Mark told me that he ended up in the restaurant business, of which he owns seven, by fluke.
I left school at 16 and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I did cookery instead of metal work (the only two options offered). I didn’t do it because I liked cooking. I hated metalwork.
After polishing off bacon and egg number three, I was off to my next course at Brunswick House, an airy, light-filled restaurant that is housed in an old architectural salvage building where everything is for sale apart from the staff. I had the most delicious lunch surrounded by chandeliers, gilded mirrors, wooden elephants, all available for purchase. My lunch companion:
I feasted on Confit Salsify (a root vegetable), Jerusalem Artichoke, Cavolo Nero and Ogleshied Crisp.
And when the fancy crisp was removed, le voila…
Next up, an equally sumptuous dessert of Jellied Rhubarb, Fennel Sorbet (who knew fennel could work as a sorbet?) and Mascarpone.
It was clearly my lucky day as I bumped into the talented and tattooed chef Andrew Clarke on my way out.
Vauxhall may not be on Conde Nast Traveller’s bucket list, but these two restaurants are definitely worth a visit.