The Serpentine’s Sackler Gallery has a new extension in the form of the future-forward, glossy and spectacular Magazine Restaurant. The ex-gunpowder store is now a distinctively buxom gazebo, designed by curve-obsessed Zaha Hadid Architects. Set in Kensington Gardens, the crisp white structure is carefully annexed to the Grade II listed gallery, offering triumphant contrast. The lighting inside is impressive and acts as a focal point thanks to glass walls and that shapely ceiling. Casual café-style by day and glamour puss by night, the space is wholly unique. If you can tear yourself away from gazing above and around you, there are some interesting culinary offerings to feast upon too.
We decide to check out chef Oliver Lange’s menu by night. The German-born and Japanese kitchen-trained chef is attempting to stir things up by cooking local produce prepared using Far Eastern methods. Naturally we sample his lobster roll, quail egg nigiri and the excellent ‘volcano roll’ filled with salmon, avocado and cream cheese. The latter is coated in breadcrumbs then fried, served with a soya and bonito jam with fresh wasabi. Inventive, fresh, we couldn’t get enough of this Western sushi. Lange’s black pudding bread, sour dough and potato loaf are all worth trying too, regardless of whether you’re eating sushi or a more typically Western dish. Homemade on the premises, each slice cannot go without a hint of whipped butter and truffle dust. Pleasant too is the lamb tartare; quickly seared on a charcoal grill then finely chopped and served with herb snow. It had that distinctive sweet lamb flavour – clean and lean. A main of cod, clams and ocean herbs was slightly too salty for me, even though cooked on the cusp of raw perfection. So what if the menu is a little irregular, what comes out of the kitchen is very good.
The Magazine is a fascinating little restaurant in two ways: by a marrying history and innovation we have new modernity alongside tradition in both architecture and cuisine. Delicate Japanese craftsmanship and Western inspiration meet in a space where the Georgian era meets space-age fancy. The culinary offerings are tasty and distinguished, but I did wonder who Lange was cooking for; gastronomic explorers or traditionalists? And does it really matter? After all, as Lange tells us, “cooking should not always be so defined; it evolves from one style and then reinvents itself to another”.