I booked to go to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery today. I missed the last one in 1972! And it’s said this is the final chance to see the treasures outside Egypt as a new museum is being built to house them permanently there.
Of course, for Travel Gourmet, a day out always means a chance to find a new place to eat. The Saatchi Gallery is in Duke of York’s Square in Chelsea, just off the King’s Road and thus in an area awash with eateries of all kinds – from posh to cheap and of course many chains. I’ve eaten at Polpo in the square a couple of times after visiting the Chelsea Flower Show but wanted to try somewhere different today. I also wanted to avoid the chains and so settled on an Italian cafe right next to Polpo – Manicomio. They have a restaurant and cafe side by side.
My Manicomio experience began with morning coffee as I’d arrived in plenty of time for my 11.30am entry to the exhibition. There were a few people sitting at tables on the terrace outside but it was far too cold for me so I went inside.
It was attractive inside and I received a warm and friendly welcome. A menu was soon put before me. Looking at the prices I was immediately reminded that going off-piste (i.e. eschewing the chains in favour of an independent) in a place like Chelsea meant that the prices were high. My flat white was £3.75 and a plain croissant £2.95. However, they were good – the coffee particularly excellent, though quite a small cup – and it was a great place to sit and relax for a while.
I read the i paper while I ate and there was a review of the exhibition. It wasn’t a particularly good one so I was a bit disappointed. However, I had a ticket and I’d just go and see. The gallery is almost next door to the cafe so wonderfully convenient. People were being strictly let in according to the time on their ticket so I joined a long queue for a while. Once inside I was soon awed by the beautiful treasures. I didn’t agree with the i paper at all! It was crowded but not as crowded as many big exhibitions I’ve been to so the timed entry was working. And people were polite and patient about waiting their turn to get close to an exhibit. I was so pleased I went and it was amazing to know these beautiful artefacts were over 3,000 years old.
I came out a little after 1pm and went back to Manicomio for lunch. I chose the cafe again rather than the more expensive restaurant because I only wanted a light lunch. I ended up at pretty much the same table as earlier! Again inside. There’s also a large conservatory at the back.
I thought I’d celebrate my ‘day out’ with a glass of prosecco (£8.50) and asked for some tap water too. That came in a carafe, which I always appreciate, rather than just a glass of water.
There were some tempting things on the menu: a swordfish burger, a ‘buttermilk chicken & truffle remoulade brioche’, lasagna (meat and vegetable), but I opted for ‘Smoked salmon, Avocado, Jalapeño, Coriander, Creme Fraiche & Tomato Piadina’ (£12.50).
A piadina is an Italian flatbread which is filled and rolled. Inside this one the avocado was mixed much like guacamole with the spices and herb; the smoked salmon and creme fraiche on top. It was very tasty and I enjoyed it.
I ordered a slice of Bakewell tart (£3.50) and a Macchiato (£2.75) to finish. The cake was nice, though not exceptional; the coffee was excellent – a perfect macchiato!
What a lovely day out. Tutankhamun was stunning and wonderful. And Manicomio was a good find. The food was good though not exceptional enough to make a special journey to eat there (maybe the restaurant might be?) but I liked the ambiance, the friendly and very efficient service, and it’s definitely somewhere to return to when in the area.