Entering sketch in Mayfair you feel a little bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Coming through the door you are immediately greeted with a feast for the eyes, a Wonderland of art work and a rabbit’s warren of different rooms and unique places to explore.
Even just in the entrance foyer there is a quirky hopscotch drawing…
And surreal art installations – some temporary exhibitions and some with a permanent home in the restaurant…
Isn’t it just totally unique?
Sketch is actually a multi-functional space with so many different areas to explore. The Gallery is the brasserie-style restaurant which is also a huge canvas for artist David Shrigley and the 239 pieces of his artwork that line the walls. I love the interior design of The Gallery, it’s all pink and basically the Barbie’s dream house of a restaurant- it’s also famous for it’s egg-shaped toilets, perhaps the most unique bathrooms in London.
As well as The Gallery, sketch houses The Parlour and The Glade, the latter is decorated like an enchanted forest with sparkling tree adorning the walls and bamboo furniture. Both serve afternoon tea, cocktails and comfort food where as the East bar is the place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.
But tonight we would be heading upstairs to sketch’s Gastronomic two-Michelin star restaurant: The Lecture Room & Library. Past some gorgeous #ihavethisthingwithfloors mosaic tiling…
And a gorgeous silver-leaf bench…we made our way up the stairs where we were greeted by a black curtain… they certainly know how to build up the anticipation and with a dramatic swoosh, the curtain was drawn back and we entered the dining room.
I’ve seen some gorgeous dining rooms but I have to say this is probably one of the best I’ve seen in London (rivalled by The Ritz and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester). With plush red and gold carpets, soft velvet chairs and upholstered walls it was beautifully lavish but at the same time utterly classy and elegant. There was different touches, artwork, mirrors and fireplaces adorning the room – I didn’t know where to start there was so much to see!
We were seated in a semi-private room with just us and two other couples; the room had its own fireplace and had cunningly matched the wallpaper with my dress ;).
For Valentine’s day we would be enjoying a set tasting menu and we were offered the chance to enhance our experience by including a bottle of NV Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne. As we talked to the sommelier about the legendary champagne, I felt pretty proud that I’d picked up quite a lot of knowledge about the champagne process on my recent trip.
We loved the honied and slightly fruity flavours of the champagne and it paired really well with the mostly fish tasting menu.
Before the menu began properly we started off with some canapés including the rather interesting jellified martini above… Also just look at the water glasses – even those are pretty at sketch.
And I do love a good bread selection. It always wins points for me when a restaurant serves more than just white and brown! The butter bread was delicious and fluffy and Mr S had to hold me back from asking for more.
First the starter which was actually made up of three components…yes, this is one dish.
Beautifully prepared hand-dived Scottish scallops carpaccio.
An incredible tuna tartare mixed with avocado and shellfish which I think was cuttlefish but it was so sublime I didn’t think to ask.
And a cocktail Venise which I think was supposed to be a twist on a Bellini. It included jelly at the bottom and a light mousse on top. I didn’t like this component as it had strong notes of grapefruit and I found it too bitter. Mr S was, however, happy to have two!
The menus at sketch are created by French Masterchef Pierre Gagnaire who has fifty years experience , having been born into a family of restauranteurs. Gagnaire has always strived to be iconoclastic with his cooking and break new ground gaining him recognition worldwide having received three Michelin stars. He was also listed best chef in the world by French magazine Le Chef.
Next, perhaps my favourite course, perfectly made truffle ravioli with artichokes and celeriac accompanied by cuttlefish, Ibérico de Bellota (the very finest Iberico ham) and a smooth and slightly creamy beurre blanc. The combination of textures and flavours was just sensational I don’t think I’ve ever had a pasta dish quite like it.
Though the presentation of this dish was pretty, particularly the vibrant green daub of enoki broccoli mousseline with horseradish and the flower petal, I thought the taste was a little lifeless. Dressed Dorset crab with a brown shrimp bouillon was more like a refreshing cleanser than full-on flavour sensation. But then I’m not a huge fan of broth and let’s face it you’re not going to like every element of a tasting menu and if you did than the concept probably isn’t as daring as sketch.
We got back on track with the next dish. Reading diced ‘Carabineros’ on the menu, I had no idea what was in store for us but apparently this form of shrimp are the very best that you can get. Renowned for their large size and vibrant colour – the flesh was sweet, juicy and plump, a little bit like lobster. Apparently they were given this name because the red colour of their shells matches the uniforms of the Spanish customs officers – Carabineros meaning police. Mixed with endives, the delicious prawns were truly lifted by the ‘Violine’ sauce – apologies for being a bad blogger but I didn’t ask what was in it and now I can’t find the info. Anyway, the saltiness of the sauce really enhanced the flavour of the already delicious prawns and made for a truly wonderful dish which matched well with the Krug.
Braised French Veal was our only meat dish and probably our favourite savoury dish after the pasta. It was topped with roasted foie gras (which I didn’t eat as I don’t like it), and paired with abalone truffle bouillon with Jerusalem artichokes. The veal was beautifully cooked and pink and the accompaniments provided the perfect mixture of flavours and textures.
And finally what we’d been looking forward to and what Valentine’s day is all about…sweet pink things!! Pierre Gagnaire’s Grand Desserts were a tasty trio of desserts that arrived simultaneously, two out the three being made for sharing on this romantic day.
A light fruit salad cocktail with pink meringue, sorbet and a brandy snap was a delicious palate cleanser.
Our spoons were battling for more of this lemon sponge cake with cream and chocolate – both beautiful to look at and a totally heavenly taste.
Finally this absolutely delicious raspberry tart – the perfect Valentine’s dessert – berries being an aphrodisiac…
There are many great restaurants in London but I think few rival sketch for overall experience. From the moment that you walk in the door the theatre of the place envelopes you. The drama of the food and the taste of the exquisite cuisine astounds you. And the atmosphere and service is the icing on the wonderful cake. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s totally unique and utterly wonderful.
sketch: Lecture Room & Library
9 Conduit Street
020 7659 4525