“A restaurant and design exhibition rolled into one.” Elle Deco
Afternoon tea at Sketch has been on my London ‘to-do’ list for a while. Previously impossible to get a booking that fits into my summer schedule I finally managed to secure a table this year and it just happened that the visit coincided with National Afternoon Tea week.
Award winning Sketch is a combination of art, design and top notch food that offers its guests an experience like no other. Located just off Regent Street, Sketch has five restaurants and bars to choose from, my friend and I headed for The Gallery, a modern ‘Gastro-Brasserie’ where the favoured afternoon tea is served daily. From the moment you cross Sketch’s threshold you are embraced into its weird and wacky world, where contemporary art meets entertainment. Behind the 18th century town house facade in Conduit Street lies a super cool and oh so trendy concept. An eclectic display of art lines the lobby walls and even onto the floor that leads to the ground floor bars and eateries.
Two things strike you as you enter The Gallery, firstly the abundance of framed monochrome artworks and secondly it’s all very, very pink! Over two hundred and thirty (239 to be precise) original drawings by British artist David Shrigley line the spacious restaurant walls. Hung in ordered rows the black and white artwork is offset by candy pink walls, luxurious pink furnishings and even a pink bar area, a beautiful coloured marble zig-zag floor designed by Martin Creed completes the look. The modern art reflects not only the artist’s creative talents but also his sense of humour and quirkiness, the exhibition is quite intriguing and repeatedly catches your eye as you spot another sarcastic reference, some of the drawings are quite cheeky! Shrigley’s work continues onto the white ceramics with different phrases and patterns on individual pieces in the place settings (the full set of ceramics is displayed in a cabinet in the lobby and is available to purchase). The servers light grey uniforms blend seamlessly with the pink palate, shirt dresses for the ladies and boiler suits for the men, I did feel the it was more nurse and prison inmate than waitress/waiter however.
The food like the overall interior design of The Gallery is uniquely different than any other afternoon tea I’ve sampled to date, typically there was sandwiches, scones and cakes but the decadent flavours and attention to detail were unlike any other. Three Michelin starred Master Chef Pierre Gagnaire has created a modern twist on the quintessential taking of tea in the afternoon that happens daily throughout the city in fancy hotels and restaurants.
The bubbles was served in old school Champagne saucers, the beautiful spread of perfectly cut sandwiches and dainty cakes were presented on a three tiered plate and were replenished as required. Fancy flavour combinations included smoked salmon with tarragon, corn-fed coronation chicken, quails egg and caviar and asparagus with cucumber and ricotta. The miniature mozzarella and pesto paninis were served warm in greaseproof paper tied with ribbon. The delicious warm sultana scones (plain also available) were served separately with lashings of clotted cream, organic fig and strawberry jams. The highlight of the pastries for me were the traditional Battenberg and Sketch’s own Opera cakes.
Extras treats were served from the trolley, poppy and redcurrant choux buns and raspberry, chocolate and hibiscus flower cakes. Champagne, English Sparkling and non-alcoholic afternoon teas variations are offered with a wide selection of Jing Teas. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dietary requirements are catered for with separate menus and our leftovers were packaged up in a pink box (of course) to take home. The service was attentive but not intrusive, just enough to keep things flowing so you don’t overstay your two-hour slot, the tables were a little close together but it’s too much of an issue.
Alongside The Gallery is the The Glade which is decorated in green tones, an enchanted forest design with vibrant painted walls and wicker furniture where afternoon tea is also served followed by cocktails in the evening. The East Bar is an intimate and stylish bar and lounge that’s great for an aperitif or post dinner nightcap. The second floor Lecture Room and Library is a two starred Michelin ‘gastronomic restaurant’ with tasting and a la carte menus created by Chef Gagnaire. It’s vibrant red interior is sophisticated and opulent, its wine list is apparently magnificent and that along with its cuisine has earned the restaurant great acclaim. The Parlour is open all day from 8am – 2am offering everything from breakfast to afternoon tea and then evening cocktails from 6pm (Members only from 9pm).
A review of Sketch wouldn’t be complete without mentioning The Gallery’s all-white spaceage bathrooms, I have never seen or used a toilet quite like it. Individual ‘egg’ pods are randomly clustered in the minimalist space with a multicoloured checkerboard ceiling. Funky design and a bizarre experience all at once, the bathrooms were a photo opportunity in themselves, I think everyone I saw in there was taking a photo or selfie.
Afternoon tea was an entertaining and enjoyable experience, a complete one off for sure. Delicious food, sumptuous surroundings and great fun, my friend and I really enjoyed our couple of hours at Sketch. A must try for any foodies, art lovers or those who just love the colour pink.
Location: 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7659 4500
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional two photos of The Gallery interior used courtesy of sketch.london