Sketch London | Everything You Need To Know
Last Updated 3rd August 2018
Take a stroll down Mayfair’s Conduit Street and, towards the northern end, you’ll spot Sketch London housed within a rather grand three-story Georgian townhouse that looks different from the others surrounding it.
Perhaps it’s the inviting glow, and the delicate hum of music & merriment emanating from the windows…
…or maybe it’s the life-size sculpture of a faceless bull terrier attached to the wall.
Either way, you’ve just arrived at one of the quirkiest venues in London – and one which lays a solid claim to being the most beautiful, too – Sketch. Originally set up in 2003 by an envelope-pushing Algerian restauranteur named Mourad Mazouz (AKA “Momo”, who made his name in Paris, opening acclaimed restaurant Au Bascou when he was a precocious 26 year old), he found the stunning venue in a dilapidated state, and bought the deed without even knowing what he would do with it. All he did know what that is was a) beautiful, b) had in its 220 year history been home to an extraordinary lineup of societies & institutions, including cyclists, balloonists, psychologists, and the Suffragette movement and c) it was his.
Walking inside, you’ll immediately feel your feet being drawn into step along the hopscotch court drawn into the floor. Which is lucky, because it means you’ll definitely notice the paint spilled down the stairway just head of you just in time to avoid stepping in it… before realising that, of course, it’s all part of the decoration.
This place is fuelled by art. It’s infused in the walls, the floors, the bathrooms, and in the food itself. It makes for a venue that looks like nowhere else in the city, or – dare we say – the world.
Here’s what you can expect to find in its five restaurants and bars…
THE GALLERY | SKETCH LONDON
This is the flagship restaurant space. Suffused with a light, blush pink that covers everything from the pillowy armchairs, to the ceiling, to the walls, it creates a Wes Anderson-ey feeling of pleasant quirkiness. Those walls have then been jacketed with 91 colourful original pictures by acclaimed artist David Shrigley, whose work has even extended to ceramic tableware, with original David Shrigley plates, cups, and salt & pepper shakers on the tables themselves.
Being the flagship restaurant in the flagship venue of an immensely ambitious restaurateur, you might imagine that making sure the food is good is something of a priority. So back when Mourad Mazouz had a multi-million pound venue he had no idea what to do with on his hands he asked his friend, three Michelin Star chef Pierre Gagnaire, for advice. And Pierre’s answer was ‘just give me the keys to the kitchen…‘. So he did.
The menu Gagnaire has devised for The Gallery includes generously portioned starters like wild Argentinian red king prawns with manzanilla, espellette pepper gel, cooked amaranth & quinoa; some leeks with beef topside and truffle sauce; or a trio of white asparagus, one with with herb velouté, another with raw stalks dusted in parmesan, and a third variation with ‘pistachioed tips’.
Main courses are no less spectacular, ranging from artichoke dieppoise (which is made with grey shrimp, cockles, razor clams, mussels, salmon, and a cream of tomato sauce); all the way to a whole grilled lamb rack with matchstick potatoes, aubergine caviar, some additional lamb stew, and dried fruit. There’s even a whole smoked Challans duck with the breast separately cooked in a ‘marmalade of red cabbage & apple’.
For dessert, you can’t really go wrong with their Sketch Chocolate, whose room-matching pink meringue shell conceals dark chocolate mousse & dark chocolate ice cream together with crushed hazelnuts, cocoa jelly, and strawberry ganache. And if you’re after something a little less sweet? There’s always a lemon cake with citrus syrup, burrata, Campari ice cream, and black olive jelly.
THE LECTURE ROOM & LIBRARY | SKETCH LONDON
Just in case you were under the impression that the Gallery is where all Gagnaire poured all his ambition, allow us to correct you. Above it both physically and critically is The Lecture Room & Library, a slightly more refined (and – dare we say it – traditional) fine-dining restaurant.
The food is every bit as ambitious as Momo had hoped for his new venture and – according to the two Michelin Stars the restaurant has since received – every bit as delicious too. On first impression, and given the veritable toolshed of cutting edges that you’ll have already been exposed to in the design of the venue, this space seems strangely understated at first. But it’s all in the details. The baroque veiling is painted in lush pinks and purples. The walls are studded to match the gentleman’s club-esque armchairs. The back wall in one of the rooms (there are three in all) is mirrored by tinted panels, to create perfect visual metaphor for what this place is: a uniquely interesting reflection of sumptuous luxury.
The menus here offer both a la carte, and a seven course tasting options. For the former, you can snag a starters described as Live Langoustines, which is thankfully only a tartare seasoned with Japanese sansho pepper, blended with a little grapefruit & watermelon, then flattened between two light, fluffy, and crunchy potatoes. That costs £55. Then we move onto the main courses.
Here, you’ll be introduced to seafood like Sketch’s red mullet pan-fried with ‘aromatics from the coast’, and served with potato cream, sauce vierge, anchovy water, sardine rillettes, bouillabaisse, and a buffalo mozzarella ice cream with star anise. If you’re into something land-based, there’s a whole pigeon roasted with bay leaves and juniper with beetroots, buckwheat crepes, and a sauce salmis with cherries.
And for pudding, there’s Pierre Gagnaire’s Grand Dessert, which is an insane-sounding lineup of saffron ice cream, strawberries, red pepper, black olive jelly, apricot marmalade, praline & coffee cubes, confit Arlette cherries in red port, mascarpone ice cream drizzled in yuzu syrup, a biscuit soaked in aged Kirsch, some peach compote, fresh almonds, lemon verbena -infused milk foam, crunchy chocolate parfait, raspberries, and cocoa water.
That’s ONE dessert.
And that’s the final course on the tasting menu, which features six other equally mind boggling dishes, including some New Zealand King Salmon with roasted loquat (sometimes known as a Chinese Plum); some guinea fowl roasted on the crown with wheat beer reduction and green curry; and grilled duck foie gras with a bouillon of mousseron mushrooms: they’re the ones you find growing in fairy rings.
Moving onto the less formalised restaurant spaces, we come to-
THE PARLOUR | SKETCH LONDON
This is Sketch’s patisserie by day, and one of their bars by night. If you’re into a little breakfast or brunch, you can grab one of the colourful chairs (complete with ballet shoes en pointe on each leg) and indulge in some pancakes with maple syrup, French toast suzette with orange sorbet & caramel sauce, or some poached tempura eggs with cream of gorgonzola & Portobello mushrooms.
Moving into the evening, the patisserie counter is freed from its pastries, and filled with ice for cocktails including a classic Hemingway Daiquiri, and their El Conde Megroni, which replaces the traditional gin with a smokey mezcal. And you’ll be glad to know that – although this isn’t really a beer kind of bar – the craft beer revolution has made its way over here, with some CRATE ipa on offer in bottles.
THE GLADE | SKETCH LONDON
Because you didn’t come here not to be transported to an enchanted fairytale forest filled with elegant furnishings covered in hand-painted velvet, carved oak shelves behind the bar, coloured mirrored tabletops, and a lush carpet of pine needles and life-like grass underfoot… you’ll be glad to know The Glade exists.
It’s another of their restaurants, this one designed specifically for breakfast & lunch rather than the dinner crowd. Its incredible decorations are directly inspired by an early 20th century French postcard – the artists who designed the room re-painted it, enlarged & reversed the design, the printed it onto hundreds of metres of paper. They they took that paper, and carefully mapped it out onto the walls of the room, hand-cutting and sticking it all up seamlessly, so a to make it seem like you are in the postcard itself.
An illusion that is strangely complimented by self-playing piano.
The food on offer moves from breakfast goods (some eggs benny with shallots & smoked haddock; a Full English with tomato concassé; and some Blue Mountain Coffee to wash it all down with), to a lunch offering of prawn carpaccio with pink grapefruit gel & fresh coriander; a spring lamb stew; and a Queen of Puddings with custard, cake, jam, and meringue.
THE EAST BAR | SKETCH LONDON
If what you’re after is a simple, straightforward, good ol’ fashioned cocktails bar, then it should be perfectly obvious that you’re in the wrong place. But The East Bar is as close as Sketch will come to any sense of normalcy.
Of course – that said – it is set inside a giant, spaceship like globe, completely white on the outside, with a totally circular sunken bar in the centre of the room on the inside. The scattered newspapers you’ll notice are actually menus, and on those menus are a typically quirky selection of cocktails, with a few classics thrown in for good measure.
If, while you’re in the spaceship-like bar you feel the call of nature, then you can simply walk up onto it’s roof (seriously, the bar is enclosed within a space so large there are stairs on either side of the door snaking around the outside of the bar and above it), and check out the strangest loos in London.
They’re all housed in individual pods, scattered haphazardly around the space, which rather alarmingly resemble large alien eggs. Under a multicoloured ceiling. Once you’re inside your capsule, you’ll hear strange music or audio clips being piped in, and exiting, you’ll probably notice the staff polishing up, and dressed in strangely dystopian uniforms.
THE AFTERNOON TEA
Served in the all-pink Gallery restaurant, Sketch’s afternoon tea is a point-perfect sight to behold. The triple-layered towers of miniature goodies include finger sandwiches filled with eggs truffle gougère; foie gras tartlette; croquet d’york; Coronation chicken; salmon & cream, and more. Above them, you can find mini cakes (or ‘petits gateaux’ as they call them) like strawberry Batternberg; caramel & chocolate eclairs; pear bourdaloue tart; and others. And above them, you can expect a strawberry cheesecake in a glass, and some berriolette marshmallows.
Oh, and there’s a dedicated Victoria sponge trolley making the rounds. If you want some, just ask.
It’s a piece of cake.
NOTE: Sketch London is open seven days a week, with spaces open at various times between 8am and midnight. You can reserve on their website HERE.
Sketch London | 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG
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