It has long been a desire of mine to eat at the world renowned two Michelin Star 'Sketch' in London's Mayfair. I had been told tales of the opulent and imaginative setting, where the food is just as theatrical as the venue. But could it live up to the hype?
We arrived through the inconspicuous doors, and immediately you realise that all is not what it seems. Hopscotch is drawn on the floor, leading you down the rabbit hole, past the paperclip chains and the up the stairs, dripping with paint of various hues. Our host, beacons us to follow her up the stairs where for a moment we are kept in darkness when she suddenly pulls open the heavy double doors to reveal the main Lecture Room and Library. The grandure of the place is fabulous; I likened it to the main dining room in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel with it's mirrored walls, yellow paintings and pink carpet. The building itself is steeped in history and was the former Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and was also a central meeting space for the Suffragettes.
One reviewer writes: Sketch is a complex and unique site. Conceived by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mazouz, it has attracted unprecedented media reaction for its myriad food, drink and entertainment styles since it opened in December 2002. Gagnaire's culinary genius has inspired the menus throughout sketch. His eponymous Michelin three-starred Paris restaurant has a distinctive menu style, which Gagnaire had adapted for sketch. Executed by his acolytes, the food is imaginative, bold, ground-breaking and delicious. These two visionaries have come together to create sketch...
Rainbow Radish/ Green Pea ice-cream
Crispy Hen Egg/ Asparagus/ sun-dried tomato
New potato salad/ Speck
Tapendade/ Aubergine Caviar/ Focaccia
Roasted Duck Breast/ Fine Beans/ Paris Mushrooms/ Grapefruit
Pierre Gagnaire combination of Three Desserts:
Olive Cake/ Pineapple /Ice-cream
Parfait/ Coffee foam
Tropical Fruit Clafoutis/ Tarragon ice-cream
Out maitre d', Fabien, was courteous, friendly and charming throughout the service. tantalising our tastebuds with canapes, and then warming up with not one, but four starters. By this time our belly's were full but the main course of duck and then a further three desserts nearly killed us off. The food, was simply too good to forego. It was true storytelling on a plate; each course saying something different and took us on a journey of culinary discovery. Even the Japanese daikon with Campari sauce was challenging but intriguing at the same time. My personal favourite had to be the tropical fruit clafoutis with tarragon ice cream, or the Green Pea ice-cream. My husband could not get over the exquisite taste of the three different butters including seaweed and caramelised butter. Usually these accompaniments seems trivial and are overlooked, even in high end restaurants, however at Sketch, the fine attention to detail makes every mouthful a journey of discovery.
To as lovely gesture, Fabien gave us a tour of the kitchens and other restaurants that are part of the sketch building, including the Gallery (where the Afternoon Tea looked divine), the Glade, the Parlour Room and the East Bar. However it was the toilets that stole the show! At the top of pristine white sets, highly polished by a lady in a French Maid's outfit were 8 foot goose eggs, doubling up as washrooms. The other toilets were bejewelled with Swarovski crystals in the shape of spider webs, with black mirrored glass and fairground music playing to add a further sense of surrealism.
There was some concern before we went that Sketch may be 'style over substance' but this was absolutely not the case. In this day and age of high consumerism, and fast culture it is hard to establish oneself without real substance. But Sketch manages to artfully provide a unique dining experience with fantastic technical cooking. I shall definitely be returning, as like any good painting, it shall always show you something new, in a different light.