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 the city – and one which lays a solid claim to being the most beautiful, too – Sketch London. Originally set up in 2003 by an envelope-pushing Algerian restaurateur 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) over its 220 year history, home to an extraordinary lineup of societies & institutions, including cyclists, balloonists, psychologists, and the Suffragette movement and c) 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.
Sketch London 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 beetroot, served three different ways alongside Campari burrata ice cream; thinly sliced veal shank with raspberry and canteloupe; and even breaded frog legs with a green spelt risotto.
Main courses are no less spectacular, ranging from sautéed squid with ink, parmesan crisps and aubergine ‘caviar’; all the way to guinea fowl breast stuffed with almond and pistachio cream. There’s even a double tartare with both hand-chopped beef and tuna.
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 iced nougat with redcurrant gelée.
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 three 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 Sketch London’s design, 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.
Since snagging that third Michelin star, the Library has switched to serving tasting menus only, which come in vegetarian or ‘lobster’ varieties – the latter of which including a starter 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.
Other courses include roast Anjou pigeon and foie gras (with diced lobster), Venere rice with gorgonzola ice cream, and white peach raviolo served with green curry.
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.
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 waffles with maple syrup, a Full English with bacon, black pudding and coco beans, or some poached tempura eggs with avocado and ‘sketchup’.
Moving into the evening, the patisserie counter is freed from its pastries, and filled with ice for cocktails including a Lady d’Arbanville, which combines two types of vodka with elderflower liqueur and ‘Darjeeling droplets’. 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 Meantime brews 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 Sketch London’s restaurants, this one designed specifically for 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 a self-playing piano.
The food on offer spans from light and refreshing lunch dishes, like prawn carpaccio with pink grapefruit gel & fresh coriander or a spring lamb stew; to the indulgent Queen of Puddings with custard, cake, jam, and meringue.
THE EAST BAR
If what you’re after is a simple, straightforward, good ol’ fashioned cocktail 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 its roof (seriously, the bar is enclosed within a space so large, there are stairs on either side snaking around and above the outside of the bar), 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 | SKETCH LONDON
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 like eggs gougère; Coronation chicken; salmon & cream, and more. Above them, you can find mini cakes (or ‘petits gateaux’ as they call them) like strawberry Battenberg; caramel & chocolate éclairs; raspberry cheesecake; and others. And above them, you can expect crumbly scones served with clotted cream and strawberry & poppy jam.
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: The Parlour at Sketch London is currently open seven days a week, with the other spaces only open Thursday-Sunday. It’s best to book ahead, but they will be accepting some walk-ins. You can find out more, and reserve a table, on their website HERE. Please also note they will take your temperature with a contactless scanner on arrival.
Sketch London | 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG
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