The Gallery in West Hampstead
The Gallery, on a rainy Sunday night in November, is buzzing with the chatter of a full house. An impressive set of spirit bottles line the exposed brickwork behind the bar, with numerous records stacked on the nearby shelves (the turntable, in use, sits on one end of the bar). Focusing mainly on small plates and sharing platters, The Gallery offers a sociable dining experience. It’s intimate too, with low hanging lamps and flickering tea lights creating a soft ambiance.
As we seat ourselves in a cosy nook, mixologist George talks us through the menu. The Gallery boasts 101 handpicked whiskies from around the world and its menu perfectly complements and incorporates them.
There could be no more comforting food to counter the rain splattering the windows than what follows. We begin with the Cheddar and Black Cab Stout Croquettes: perfect little spheres nestled in brown paper. The crispy shells fall to pieces in the mouth, making way for oozing smoky cheddar. Next come the Cod Cheeks. These have been slow-cooked with dill and fennel and come on a bed of greens, peppered with little pops of red chilli. The flavour recalls seaside fish and chips with a delicate twist of spice.
Offering a lighter bite is the Gem and Bacon Salad: two halves of Romaine lettuce encrusted with jewel-like bacon pieces. The lettuce chunks taper at the end, making them perfect for picking up with your fingers. Bourbon BBQ squid arrives next. We dig into a glorious golden-brown pile of crispy tendrils that are sticky and crispy on the outside, but plump and soft inside, without any hint of chewiness. Their sweet glaze makes this a decadent treat. The jewel in the crown of this meal is a sharing pot of Whisky Mussels with Leeks and Cream, buttery in colour and basking in a supremely velvety cream sauce. Subtly salty and chilli-infused, it is satisfyingly savoury. Patrons not in the habit of ordering seafood will find themselves lured in by these substantial and hearty offerings. Accompanying all this is a generous helping of The Gallery’s popular Woolfpack Cheese Fries, smothered with melted cheese and sprinkled with paprika.
After the food comes the whisky. George prescribes us Auchentoshan, a golden Lowland Scotch, and Suntory Hibiki, a straw-coloured whisky from Japan. The first is peaty and smoky, the second incredibly smooth with a lingering aftertaste. Full-flavoured and warming, they round off our comforting winter meal perfectly, while the low-lit cosiness of the space provides the perfect atmosphere to savour them leisurely. The Gallery is patronised by many whisky connoisseurs who appreciate the fine, eclectic range and the huge choice available. Less knowledgeable whisky fans needn’t be overwhelmed by the extent of the menu, as staff are on hand to recommend a tipple to suit any tastes.
Even the desserts fit the whisky theme. We investigate with a plate of Dark Chocolate Bourbon and Honeycomb Biscuits. Smooth to the tasty and gooey to the touch, they leave my fingers sticky with chocolate.
If we’d had the slightest bit of room left, we would surely have finished off with one of George’s latest cocktail creations, such as the Butter Bourbon with Nutmeg and Cinnamon. As it is, we left it at that.
Prices are fairly reasonable, with the small plates setting you back around £5 each, and the sharing mussels costing £13.50. Rich and substantial as so many of the dishes are, you won’t need much more than that to fill up.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
To book a table at The Gallery, 190 Broadhurst Gardens, NW6 3AY, London, call 020 7625 9184 or visit here.