Gallery Mess

People either love or hate contemporary art and I am in the love category. I even love the fact that it is often incomprehensible. So I seized the opportunity to visit the Saatchi gallery this weekend with my friends Soph and Fraze who were in London for a couple of days. After being confronted and confounded by the art we needed a cup of tea and a sit down. The obvious option was the Gallery Mess which is attached to the gallery and is housed in the old Duke of York’s officers mess. The main space is a long and thin room with a bar lining one wall with floor to ceiling windows on the other side. Exposed brick work has been retained from the original officers mess but otherwise the look is modern with white painted arched ceilings and neon art installations.

We were just in time for afternoon tea (£10.50) which is served from 2.30pm so we decided that would be the perfect accompaniment for our cups of tea. The tea on offer was Jing tea (£2.20), in a limited range of flavours and served in tiny white pots. I would have liked a wider selection of flavours to accompany the afternoon tea, and I also would have liked if the cost of the tea was included in the afternoon tea.
The afternoon tea itself consisted of sandwiches, scones and small cakes and was served on a single footed cake stand. The sandwiches were tiny squares filled with smoked salmon, cucumber and egg. The bread was fairly tasteless and dull. The scones were also disappointing as they were small little, flat nuggets rather than fluffy, towering beauties. Things improved with the cake selection which included two small macarons sandwiched together with a chocolate paste and an exquisite small, dense tea cake.
I have read good reviews of the Gallery Mess so I was fairly disappointed by our rather dispiriting experience at afternoon tea. I can only assume that lunch or dinner is a better bet. I think there are much better afternoon teas to be had in London (try the one on offer at Sketch) and better gallery caff’s (like the one at Tate Modern with its fabulous views of London).
Details: Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4SQ (Ph 020 730 8135) Tube: Sloane Square
Damage: Reasonable
If you liked reading this you might be interested in reading about afternoon tea at Sketch or if you want to make your own afternoon tea, try this chocolate brownie recipe and serve in tiny bite size squares.
Gallery Mess on Urbanspoon


  1. Maybe Mr Saatchi should get some tips from his wife for the cafe?

  2. What a shame. As you say the Sketch tea rather sets the benchmark. But this isn’t as bad as a place that shall remain nameless in Soho which was so bad we left.

  3. Love afternoon tea, this looks a tad disappointing. You’re absolutely right about the tea generally being included in the price. Sounds like the gallery is worth checking out though.

  4. On a non-food (but contemporary-art-related note), you should go see Ori Gersht’s latest exhibition at the gallery, Mummery + Schnelle. Opening night is today, so drop by!

    Full disclosure is you should say hi to my friend, Wolfram Schnelle, while you’re there.

  5. LexEat – Ha – good idea – I am sure Nigella would do a better afternoon spread
    Browners – really are you taking about another afternoon tea place?
    Boo – the gallery is great so worth a visit for that and I have read other good reviews of lunch and dinner, just avoid the afternoon tea
    An American in London – is that the same gallery we went to the photography exhibition at? Welcome back as well

  6. Wow, thats strange, afternoon tea, no tea included. I checked out the link. I’ve never been to that gallery, but it is a beautiful venue. That afternoon tea looks a bit to minimal for my taste. Its kinda cute but the more I have afternoon tea, the more I realise its so much about ceremony and a feeling of “specialness.” II think that as cool as the cafe may be, its not really the right place for afternoon tea… well at least I’ve never seen a cafe style place pull it off.
    I have got to try out Sketch. I met the girl who is a pastry chef there and she says its really good.

  7. OK, won’t be rushing there then. I must say, I saw the pic and did not immediately swoon. It’s disappointing that a place can’t make a good afternoon tea – it’s not THAT hard to get right! The Tate Modern’s restaurant rocks 🙂

  8. i’ve always wanted to go to the one at sketch, if you recommend it, i will try it soon!

  9. Heavenly Housewife – you are so right, it is all about the ceremony, setting and company just as much as what is actually served.

    Jeanne – not that hard to get it right but a lot of people do

    Passionate Cook – Yes Sketch’s is brilliant and I have also heard great things about Pret a Portea at the Dorchester although I have not been myself.

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