Hirst's prescription for a temple of trendiness

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The Independent Online
The worst fears of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain proved well founded. When The Pharmacy, London's trendiest new restaurant, opened its doors officially last night, the first callers were not patrons but patients.

"We've had five people in so far brandishing prescriptions," said Liam Carson, late of the Groucho Club and one of The Pharmacy's co-founders.

"Luckily there's a Boots down the road, where we redirected them, but they promised to come back for some coffee later."

The stricken quintet could be forgiven their little mistake. For The Pharmacy, co-owned by Carson, the PR businessmen Matthew Freud and Jonathan Kennedy, and Damien Hirst , the Michelangelo of bisected livestock, is a concept restaurant run wild. Its windows and walls are lined with medicine cabinets, filled with empty pill-boxes, ointment-tube cases, tablet sarcophagi. One sits in the bar surrounded by the most sophisticated medical cuisine money can buy. The boxes and jars (all empty) come courtesy of St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. A few dozen bearing their intended users' names slipped through the net, but were discovered before any libel writs could fly.

The banquette sofas are white, the stools are pill-shaped, the tables pristine. It cannot be long before some genial ad hoc performance artist tries to improve on Mr Hirst's "installation restaurant" with a Biro. He is credited with designing every square foot of the place, from its imposing sculpture of pool-ball molecules to its capsule-motif wallpaper and framed dead butterflies. Even the cocktails were apparently named by him - like the Detox (currant vodka with cranberries and Cointreau) and the irresistible "voltenol retarding agent" (tequila, lime and mango). Oddly, for a place so devoted to medications, they don't serve Pils.

It's a low-key evening, everyone points out - no Damien, no fuss, no wall-to-wall Tamaras and radio DJs. The owners wish to avoid intrusive celebrities, the fusillade of air kissing, the crush of designer frocks that suggest exclusivity. So the bar is full of girls in carefully dressed- on jackets and skirts - "Thank God I wore black," breathed my companion - middle-aged men with the air of consultant physicians, and a spectacular brace of Holland Park lady writers long abandoned by fashion (Puritan bob haircuts, pork-pie hats) flooring champagne in the corner.

Upstairs all eyes are on the power table that overlooks Notting Hill Gate and the poor unfashionable saps queuing for the Pizza Express.

Jay Jopling, Hirst's agent, is holding court with his girlfriend, Sam Taylor-Wood, the video installation artist. Beside them are Janet Street- Porter, the biographer Philip Hoare, and Elton John's boyfriend, David Fincher. By 8.45pm the feeling of being in a doctor's waiting-room has lessened. The waiters, in their red operation theatre gowns, are beginning to buzz with energy.

Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys drifts by, looking entirely at home. A kitchen runner with a tray of suckling pork circulates the dining-room, trying to find who ordered it. Nobody seems to know. Food is not, perhaps, the highest priority at this temple of trendiness, this antibiotic shrine.

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