I am one of the lucky ones who visited Damien Hirst’s first original Pharmacy in Notting Hill. It blew my mind and what I most remember are the waiters dressed in blood red surgeon aprons, with an open back. Sexy as hell and so was the rest of the restaurant. Hirst wasn’t the super rich artist he is today and his art was not that famous yet, so frequenting The Pharmacy was cool. The original restaurant was open between 1998-2003, the new one opened two years ago. I was there the week it opened, and remember taking a cab from the city to South London especially to be one of the first to discover it. The Pharmacy 2 is hosted in Damian Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, South London and is a real hommage to Hirst’s art installation The Medicine Cabinets series and butterfly Kaleidoscope paintings of 1992. Designed entirely by Hirst, Pharmacy 2 has etched glass windows depicting DNA strands, marble inlayed flooring and a bar of stainless steel and glass vitrine.
Pharmacy 2 is a collaboration between Hirst and his long-time friend, British chef Mark Hix. The food is not the most important part here as the Hirst world is so overwhelming & present that you forget to eat. The restaurant serves classic British and European food, catering for gallery visitors during the day, and is open as a regular restaurant at night.
Worth the visit? Yes. The concentration of original Damian Hirst pieces is so high, that only for this collection it’s worth a detour. When you realize you’re sitting inside a living art installation it becomes interesting. Even more if you know that the 150 lots (the fixtures and fittings) of the first Pharmacy was auctioned off at Sotheby’s in 2004 for a total sale of £11.1 million. I know…
Newport Street Gallery, London SE11, 020-3141 9333. Open Tues-Sun, 10am-midnight (6pm Sun). About £30 a head, plus drinks and service.