I’ve been holding off on my thoughts on Sketch simply because there have been so many frickin‘ reviews lately. Rightly so, they’re offering a £50 voucher through their Facebook group until the end of August. Naturally, that got around, and pretty soon all everyone talks about is Sketch Sketch Sketch.
I went there with my friend Dom. We hadn’t been out in ages, and needed a good catch-up. After the front bar was full, we were directed to the bar that’s behind the Gallery – one of two restaurants in the building, and also the cheaper one, I learned later. The bar was spacey. Dom and I whistled the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey as we tried to find a seat. You walk into an all white room and in the middle, shaped like a cosmic egg is the bar sunken into the floor.
After we settled, I took a look at the cocktail menu. Now, I’m not a complete cheapskate or a drunk, but I think could have used a little nip of something to prepare me for the shock that was every. single. cocktail. being £13. While I scoffed, Dom got a champagne with the cherry liquor in it, and I eventually ordered a rosemary martini, which was described like ‘drinking a salad’. It totally was, but also quite tasty.
We had booked our table in The Lecture Room and Library, which is the schmancy Michelin-starred restaurant. The maître d‘ gave us ‘the tour’ on the way upstairs – how it used to be Christian Dior’s house, and all the credentials of the chef, blah blah blah. I make fun, but he was very nice, and I liked him a lot. We stop at the top of the stairs in front of two huge intimidating doors until SWOOSH(!), he opens them dramatically into one of the most beautiful and unique restaurant spaces I’ve seen. Eating at Sketch is quite the operation.
We were sat, and immediately the champagne cart was brought over. In the back of my head I had already added the £26 spent on cocktails, thinking: ‘Well, hell. That’s half the voucher right there’.
The brought out the nibbles. There were so many! Who needs a starter anyway when you have this much?
- Tomato gazpacho with biscuit
- Little bread biscuity things with a creamy sauce
- Foie gras goat cheese crackers
- Grapefruit gummy tarts
- A fried little ball of something
Seriously, I should just stop there. I don’t remember everything I had. There was a lot of little things and they were all very good. I was just pleased to be getting anything because I was sure as hell not paying £40 for a starter.
Oh but wait! There was a proper starter too! Tuna carpaccio with a cauliflower puree and a bit of salmon roe. Yum! Again, I ask: Why would anyone pay another £30 for a menu starter when I had just had enough food to pretty much fill me up for the night (bread included).
On to the mains, I had the Dover Sole and Gambas. This also came with a lot of little side dishes, but for this, I have the benefit of a downloadable menu.
- Pan-fried Fillet of Dover Sole Meunière Style / Cider / Green Peppercorn
- Gambas with Colombo Spices / Romaine Salad with Broad Beans / Bacon and Parsley
- Potato Mousseline / Beurre Noisette / Lemon / Croûtons
The sole was amazing. A perfect combination with the sweetness of the apple and the spice of the pepper. It was light, flavourful and perfect. The giant sectioned-off prawns that dotted the plate with lightly battered and perfectly crisp.
Two sides came with – the romaine salad and potatoes.
The salad was a big thumbs down. It was soggy and the lettuce was old (honestly, I saw brown edges). Just absolutely no redeeming qualities. The potatoes were whipped light as air, but the croutons and butter made it a bit too salty for my taste. While I absolutely loved my fish, I just couldn’t see why the chef would choose those two side dishes to accompany. It didn’t seem to click.
Dom went for the Lamb, which he said was amazing. I got to try a little taste of the Roast Leg, but for the most part I couldn’t get near it. But I guess that’s how I know it was good.
- Roast Leg with Indian Spices / Aubergine / Sorrel / Dried Tomatoes
- Shoulder Dumpling / White Horseradish Velouté
- Grilled Rack and Saddle
- Ewe Cheese and Spinach Velouté / Granny Smith Apple Julienne
We didn’t get anything for dessert, but again, they sorted us out anyway with some nice chocolates.
So, even though I bulk at the main courses being so expensive, you actually are getting quite a lot of food. Five amuse bouche, a starter, a main and dessert nibbles for 40-ish pounds? Not awful. It’s just when you add on the water, the cocktail, the wine, a proper proper starter and dessert that you can easily end up spending 400 quid on dinner. And that’s ridiculous. If I’m going to do that, it best be at El Bulli or The Fat Duck where every single course out of, like, 30 is an experience in and of itself.
Will I go back? Sure, but definitely before the end of August, and definitely to try the Gallery restaurant instead of the Lecture Room and Library. The latter was just way too out of my league.
P.S. I didn’t talk too much about the actual space… Sketch is a feast for the eyes. Love the decor or hate it, you really should go spend £13 on a drink just to go check the place out. There are some pictures floating about online, but they really don’t do it justice. Perhaps there are some pictures on Sketch’s web site, but the whole thing is such a Flash mess, I can’t be bothered to look.