I can always rely on Lucy to get us booked in to the most recently opened, hyped restaurants in London. We were there when the now almost impossible to get into Hoppers opened, and last week we went to check out Pharmacy 2, the reinvention of Damien Hirst's first restaurant (Pharmacy) that closed in 2003. Pharmacy 2 is near Vauxhall, located within Hirst's Newport Street Gallery. The food side of the restaurant is run by Mark Hix and you can see his influence all over the menu. The food is very Hix (I've heard people moan that it's just like any other Hix restaurant, but a chef is always going to have his own style that's discernible across his restaurants) and we loved all the dishes we tried. One thing that makes it different to other Hix restaurants is not the amount of art in the space, as all of Hix's place are pretty full of art, but the subject matter. Pharmacy 2 features work from some of the Hirst's most iconic series including the Medicine Cabinets and butterfly Kaleidoscope paintings. There are cabinets stuffed with pills, and the whole place has an almost surgical feel to it whilst still being quirky and relaxed.
We decided to go all out, so ordered snacks, starters, mains AND puddings.... starting with my least favourite dish of the night, but one that others have raved about, the crispy prawn kale hearts. There wasn't much oomph to them , they were a bit too greasy and I won't bother ordering them again. But not to worry, as the other snack we shared was delicious - cuttlefish croquettes with wild garlic mayonnaise were perfect. Crispy outsides held a dark, oily mixture of cuttlefish inside that were heavenly dipped in the obviously homemade mayo. They reminded me of an equally good version that Milli Taylor served at her pop up at the Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho last year.
When I eat out with Lucy we tend to share everything, or if not then we definitely try everything the other's ordered. Luckily sharing was the order of the evening at Pharmacy 2, so we settled on starters of Glernam Estate steak tartare, and Brick a l'oeuf de canard with rose harissa. The steak was fantastic, simply done, with sauces put on the table if we wanted extra, the quality of the beef was excellent and needed very little else to improve it. The brick egg as I'll call it was a revelation - a duck egg yolk wrapped in thin pastry and deep fried, but totally greaseless and extremely delicious, especially when used to scoop up a bit of the rose harissa. The "rose" in rose harissa does apparently mean there are rose petals used to make the harissa, which is odd, as I couldn't taste them and gladly so, as I'm really not a fan of rose in food.
For mains we both knew which dish we wanted before we even got to the restaurant, and were to share with each other (again!) I'd read rave reviews about the linguine with Portland crab and chilli, and based on that, wanted to order it. I wouldn't normally go for a pasta dish in a non Italian restaurant, but am so glad I/we did. It was perfect. Such great flavours and cooking, I'd go back to Pharmacy 2 just for this dish!
Lucy wanted the seafood a la plancha with seashore vegetables, which was also a great choice. Charred, buttery scallop, lobster and squid were also all perfectly cooked, top quality, super fresh and absolutely delicious. It is the most expensive dish on the menu (£26.50), so getting it right is essential, but it's worth every penny as they got it so right.
Somehow (maybe we hadn't drunk enough) we had room for pudding. Or at least enough curiosity to make us believe we had room. Pharmacy 2's puddings are small (ish), £4 each and you're encouraged to share. So we did - Willies Peruvian gold chocolate mousse with honeycomb, poached Yorkshire rhubarb with saffron ice cream, and blood orange and white chocolate cheesecake. I wasn't blown away, though really liked the rhubarb and ice cream. I'm not really a pudding person though, so maybe I should remember that before ordering three of them!
Pharmacy 2 is a great addition to South London's restaurant scene. It's fun (though probably more fun on a weekend than weekday evening when we went), not too pricey (our bill was £70/head for all that food, and drinks) and the food is excellent, so definitely worth a visit.
Not quite done for the evening we popped into an old favourite, Brunswick House, for an espresso martini before heading home after a pretty much perfect evening.