Dining out with the Grand Old Duke of York

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Historical intrigue abounds in London’s legendary Chelsea neighborhood, and now visitors can dine right in the heart of it in Saatchi Gallery’s new Gallery Mess restaurant.

Saatchi Gallery's new Gallery Mess restaurant is seen in this undated photo. REUTERS/Julie Mollins

Chelsea has attracted royalty and soldiers, housed the rich and famous, and inspired the careers of pop stars and artists since it was first established as a village by Anglo-Saxon settlers attracted by its handy location on the River Thames.

The likes of author Oscar Wilde, artist John Singer Sargent, musician Mick Jagger and Thomas More, beheaded for resisting Henry VIII’s reformation of the Church of England, have been residents of the area.

Over the several decades since the “Swinging Sixties,” Chelsea has become renowned as an upscale shopping and dining area.

Gallery Mess adds to the mix of eatery options with a nod via its name to its historical military setting. The next-door Saatchi Gallery, noted for its role in promoting Young British Artists and contemporary art since the 1980s, moved into the 19th-century Duke of York’s Headquarters on the King’s Road in 2008.

The licensed 120-seat restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and supper seven days a week. It serves up a mix of meat, fish and salad dishes in addition to ambitious daily specials and desserts.

The Great British Breakfast includes dry-cured bacon, black pudding, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs. For lunch and dinner, the menu offers an avocado and fennel salad, chargrilled chicken breast or classic burger.

The dessert menu offers a milk chocolate popcorn sundae or knickerbocker glory as well as a rhubarb and strawberry crumble.

Its daytime terrace allows diners a close-up view of the track where British runner Roger Bannister trained to become the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes in 1954.

The building in which the restaurant, catered by Rhubarb Food Design, is housed is known for its affiliation with the Grand Old Duke of York of nursery rhyme fame.

The Duke of York and Albany, Prince Frederick Augustus, second son of King George the Third, who led British troops in the Flanders campaign of 1793 during the French Revolutionary War was immortalized in “The Grand Old Duke of York” because he had a habit of marching and counter-marching his troops.

The Duke of York founded the Royal Military Asylum, which opened in 1803, to house and educate children of military families. The children were orphans or had fathers who were stationed abroad.

Girls were trained to become domestic servants and boys got military training.

The Royal Military Asylum was built a short walk from the Royal Hospital, designed by architect Christopher Wren and completed in 1691 as a home for retired soldiers, known today as Chelsea Pensioners.

Renamed the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in 1892, the building remained a school and teacher training center until 1909, after which it was taken over by the Territorial Army.

In 2008, Saatchi Gallery moved into the structure, designed by architect John Sanders, a student of leading English architect John Soane, to resemble the style of the Royal Hospital.

Editing by Steve Addison