Sketch, a stunning Georgian townhouse in Mayfair, must surely be London’s most eclectic artistic venue, which caters for relaxed drinks through to **2 star dining. In the grungy Parlour, guests lounge about to DJ sets with cocktails and top-end patisseries. The elegant Glade is a smarter way to take your afternoon tea in Asian forest setting. While the recently Martin Creed redecorated Gallery is a lively bistro for dining sophisticates, with the East Bar (and those famous toilets) off to the side. But where Sketch really makes a spectacle is in the Lecture Room.
Pierre Gagnaire is master and controller of all of the food on offer at Sketch, and not to mention nine other locations around the world (with Berlin on the way). But his true success here has been his abilty to emulate the **2 star mastery of his Paris self-entitled restaurant in his London outpost.
When you arrive, you’ll receive perhaps the most lavish welcome that you have ever experienced. Truly warm and proud of what they know you are about to experience, David and his team are masters at their game. After being led-up the dim moody staircase, you’ll be placed in front of a hidden set of doors, which will be flung open to welcome you to the opulence that is the Lecture Room. The once Christian Dior London showroom will not disappoint with its rich furnishings, modern art and dramatic domed ceiling. Though once seated you’ll notice a change in the tone, from theatrical to slick and silent.
On the tasting menu, Gagnaire presents a beautiful range of four entrées for the table to try, with one dish that clearly stands-out. Presented in a small bowl, you’ll think you’ve been given some porridge with banana on top, though it turns out not to be sweet. Rather, you’ll get an irony hit of oyster granita with a hint of ginger to marry the icey concoction with with fruit; truly inventive stuff.
For mains, there is another surprise; an impressive vegetarian dish. Though perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise as Gagnaire offers full vegetarian tasting menu. Served-up is an artichoke risotto, with monster sized grains of tender rice, surrounded by an earthy nettle voluté, topped with dehydrated artichoke heart crisps. Flavourful, balanced and satisfying. Sadly though, as with many others at this level, desert is a bit of a let-down, which is disappointing as Gagnaire is known as a top patisière.
It’s easy to see why The Lecture Room made the jump from *1 to **2. With a high level of inventiveness, range of complimenting flavours and cooking skill, Gagnaire’s teams are certainly living up to expectation. Couple this with the out-of-this-world service, and you’ve truly got a great example of solid **2 dining in Britain.