Pharmacy 2

Restaurants, Contemporary European Lambeth
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(11user reviews)
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 (© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd )
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© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd
 (© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd )
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© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd
 (© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd )
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© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd
 (© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd )
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© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd
 (© Prudence Cumming Associates, Damien Hirst and Science Ltd)
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© Prudence Cumming Associates, Damien Hirst and Science Ltd
 (© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd )
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© Prudence Cumming Associates, 2H Restaurant Ltd

Relaunch of Notting Hill's ill-fated Pharmacy, this time in Damien Hirst’s SE11 gallery, with menus from Mark Hix.

Remember Pharmacy? A restaurant-inside-an-art-installation, co-owned by PR guru Matthew Freud and with designs by fellow co-owner Damien Hirst, it first opened in 1997. With wall-to-wall pills and wall-to-wall slebs, it was, for a brief time, the hot ticket: the sort of place you’d take someone whose knickers you wanted to get into. But selling out to the City within nine months spelled doom (worse even, than being forced to change its name, the Royal Pharmaceutical Company having successfully argued it could confuse anyone looking for an actual pharmacy). It fell suicidally out of fashion, was bought out by a bar chain in 2000 (at which point Hirst jumped ship) and eventually closed in 2003. Don’t feel too sorry for Hirst though: he flogged the fixtures and fittings for a cool £1.2m.

Now, it’s back. And this time, called Pharmacy 2 (I’d have preferred ‘Pharmacy II: the Revenge’). It’s the new restaurant of the Hirst-owned Newport Street Gallery, where he exhibits works from his personal collection.

Aesthetically, it’s still great fun: colourful, creative, thought-provoking. Even after all these years, the concept, with its rows of medications, ‘100 most prescribed pills’ wallpaper and pill-shaped bar-stools makes for an intriguing backdrop.

But Hirst has missed a trick here, in not applying the same ethos he applies in the gallery – showcasing relative unknowns – to the kitchen. It would, for example, have been exciting to see a rotation of up-and-coming chefs shaking the pans; instead, the menu is courtesy of his old mucker, Mark Hix.

Hix’s food is perfectly pleasant: you’ll usually find classic Brit, plus the occasional exotic dish. But of course he’s not actually running the kitchen, and on my visit the cooking was lacklustre: solid, rather than sensational. If Hirst’s intention was to make sure the food didn’t upstage the setting, then he’s got what he wanted.

Highlights included Hix’s signature ‘Heaven and Earth’, a fail-safe combo of mellow black pud over a bed of tangy apple-and-onion mash; and a light Asian broth with a thin pork and chive patty (picture a flat dumpling) floating in it – though the promised ‘Hunan’ spicing was absent. Which was exactly the problem with our main courses (lamb pie, duck curry): perfectly edible, but with sauces that lacked depth. It’s good enough for a country pub. It’s not good enough for here.

Staff are sweet, the music apologetically low – it’s all just a bit safe. There’s still time for Hirst to take a few risks with this place and create something exciting. I really hope he does.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Pharmacy 2
Contact:
Address: Newport Street Gallery
Newport St
London
SE11 6AJ
Opening hours: Mon closed; Tues-Sat 10am-midnight; Sun 10am-6pm
Transport: Tube: Vauxhall
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Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

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LiveReviews|11
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1 of 1 found helpful

What a disappointment. Terrible service, waited 40mins and had to literally call someone over to get information on the menu. Meals were over priced and a main meal of scallops with three scallops at £26 pounds+ is laughable. I would discourage anyone from going. No atmosphere, almost clinical and food is over priced for what it is.

tastemaker

Went to this place with a work colleague for Saturday brunch, trying to the find it can be a bit concerning it definitely is a hidden gem in Vauxhall. The decorations of pills and medical equipment is very cool and give a fun vibe to the restaurant. It's not the biggest of places but a good side. I had a waffle breakfast that was amazing and a few cups of coffee, the coffee was average. The food portions are just right not overloaded. I think it's a great place for a 1 on 1 day date or a friend catch up. Good food, good service and not very pricy for brunch. I will definitely go back.


It's my favourite of those listed because it's so bonkers, but actually it's grim, expensive, and with mean portions. Best local eaterie is in fact the Thai place over the Crown & Cushion in Westminster Bridge Road (specifically, the short Laotian menu).


Great decor and Service. Freindly atmosphere and the staff always aim to please.

tastemaker

For a theme restaurant you are always there for more than just the food or drink. The experience is certainly interesting enough for a visit, not mentioning the exhibitions in NPS Gallery. A great small addition to the gallery, providing more than just your standard bland white museum cafe experience.


You will need to order food to be seated at the tables, refreshments are served at the bar, and seats are very limited. There is an interesting selection of cocktails reasonably priced at approximately £9. The snacks and food looked good for a return visit.


Considering this is technically a gallery cafe- not a full blown restaurant, high marks are given for the effort, and the higher price point expected.

Tastemaker

Pharmacy 2 makes a memorable first impression. The decor is fully committed to the theme and it gives a feeling of being sterile but also with lots of pops of colour. So much thought went into the look of the restaurant and we found ourselves spotting new details throughout our meal. The bar stools are my favourite part - a row of pastel coloured giant pills. We found the menu hard to navigate, listing lots of items we had never heard of before and many dishes were offered in small or large portions but it was hard to judge how much to order. The server seemed to get frustrated with us asking multiple questions about the menu and a number of the dishes weren't available yet when we arrived at 11:00 for brunch. I had a girolles, pea and crispy egg dish with a side of new potatoes which was very nice although not overly filling. Pharmacy 2 makes for a different dining experience, but I'd say the main draw is the unique decor, not so much the food.


Impromptu visit, all very eye-popping and IG friendly. We sat at the counter as all the tables were reserved. Everything sounded delish but on arrival the portions were too small to satisfy. My waffle was rock hard but presented beautifully. The staff bumbled around, forgetting all sort of basics. 15min after ordering we had to remind our waiter to go and get dessert. It had obviously just been sitting there, waiting for him. 

Overall: All looks, no brains.


A friend and I planned to visit the Newport Street gallery for the Koons exhibition and we completely forgot that the venue was the site for Pharmacy 2. We didn't know what to expect beyond the quirky interiors, but we made a booking - and we're pleased we did. The food was lush! I kept things small with  a couple of sides (chips, chorizo) and dessert and I thought the pineapple upside down cake was a wonderful surprise. To be completely honest? It was a very good sticky toffee pudding, but I'm not gonna hold this against them. Otherwise, the service was solid and I'd easily return for breakfast - I think the mains were a bit pricey based on a quick glance at the menu (it is a HIX restaurant), but for a few small plates before or after an exhibition, it's fab. Tables get booked up quickly, so remember to make a reservation. 

Tastemaker

Visited for brunch. Is quite a walk from Vauxhall tube station but on a sunny Saturday that was delightful. Had it been raining we may not have found it so enjoyable... Anyway, arrived and took in the decor. Fresh, clean and - I suppose fittingly - quite clinical. Several Hirst pieces/references and a very light and airy restaurant space. The two of us found it hard to choose so opted for 3 breakfast dishes between us: salmon, scrambled eggs and bacon waffles. All were perfection and we both could have easily consumed the same again. After eating at leisure time had ticked over to the regular menu and not one to miss an opportunity we ordered a selection of the tiny desserts too. The standout of which was the pineapple upside down cake. YUM Staff were pretty good at avoiding our eye when we wanted them but we then had more than one ask us the same thing on several occasions. A strange mix. Overall though a great experience- very relaxed, a fresh feel to the place and I would certainly repeat my brunch experience. 

Tastemaker

Hidden down a side street (in typical London fashion) near Vauxhall station you will find Newport Street Gallery, which presents exhibitions from the acclaimed Damien Hirst's art collection. It is also home to Damien's new collaboration with celebrated chef and restauranteur Mark Hix, pharmacy2. 

Don't expect any sign that a wonderful restuarant lie's within the art gallery, simply enter and climb the beautiful white staircase which will bring you to the entrance of pharmacy2. A clinically sterile theme has been seen before throughout Hirst's work and this small restaurant is no exception to that rule. Beautiful stained windows decorate the restaurant and the entire restaurant is decorated with every sort of medical pill and medication you can think of, including the wallpaper which we enjoyed reading while at our table.


To start I took a recommendation from one of the few early reviews of the already celebrated 'Heaven and Earth', Mark's interpretation of the German dish, with black pudding on a bed of potato and apple with a few more surprises. Absolutely divine and very light. We had the lamb pie and the duck curry with apple pakora, both beautifully presented and both dishes did not disappoint. Sides of creamed spinach were a lovely accompaniment. The pièce de resistance certainly lies in the dessert. We went for blood orange and white chocolate cheesecake and Peruvian gold chocolate mousse with honeycomb, both extremely light and absolutely gorgeous.

The prices are not of an elaborate "IT" London restaurant and alcohol was very reasonably priced. Although given it's location, it is very much a destination point and I can't imagine will attract a lot of passing trade, which makes me think pharmacy2 will have to rely heavily on it's acclaimed food to sustain a booked out restaurant. The restaurant has already been criticized for being too "safe" but I think the food and overall experience was wonderful, what's wrong with playing it safe? It was a pleasure to sit submerged with Hirst's ideas on display, complimented by Hix's culinary delights. It was also nice to see Mark Hix himself in the restaurant for the duration of our meal, greeting guests and overseeing the initial take off of his collaboration with Hirst.  


Staff were very friendly and pleasant and I imagine a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon could make up of a visit to Newport Street gallery followed by brunch or a Sunday roast in pharmacy2.