Sketch in Mayfair is a bit like Pat Sharp’s Fun House – it’s a vast building which houses a whole host of different bars and dining rooms. There’s The Gallery – a lively gastro brasserie, The Parlour – a dazzling tea room, The East Bar – a secret and intimate cocktail room, The Glade – a chilled and relaxed bar and a collection of pod toilets which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before (see below). However, my visit on this particular occasion was for lunch at the two Michelin starred Lecture Room and Library and we were both really excited.
After a rather flamboyant welcome from general manager David and a quick tour of the building we were escorted to the top of the staircase where the double doors to the dining room were flung open in a very theatrical manner. The dining room was magnificent and the staff were immaculately dressed. Ladies with handbags were brought a little table to rest them on and no-one could sit down without having a waiter tuck the chair in behind them – it was a high end level of service yet it didn’t feel stuffy.
Starters on the a la carte menu begin at £33 and mains can soar up to a whopping £55 (eek!). Luckily for us, at lunch they offer the gourmet rapide menu which was £53 for 3 courses, half a bottle wine, half a bottle of water, coffee and petit fours. I do love a good set lunch!
To start proceedings a collection of amuse bouches were brought to the table. As wonderfully French (and handsome) as our waiter was I really couldn’t understand a word he was saying when describing the different dishes. This became a slight problem throughout our meal; there was however a menu provided but it didn’t describe the amuse bouches or desserts which was a shame. They were delicious but I still to this day have no idea what I ate – there were so many flavour combinations and textures going on it would take a master (clearly not me) to be able to guess them.
Some simple white and brown bread was served alongside plain and seaweed butters. The latter had a seriously strong taste of the sea or “fishy butter” as my gentleman companion described it. I thought it was lovely, strong, but lovely.
Four mini starters were then brought to the table. A glass dish containing pineapple with green pepper ice cream was delicious and a perfect palate cleanser; the langoustine jelly with organic pollen was rich and tasted every bit of langoustine. The foie gras mousse with confit red pepper had a hint of chocolate which was really lovely but my favourite was the white beetroot cream with horseradish and smoked quail egg. The egg burst to reveal a gooey yolk which complimented the smokiness perfectly. These were all pleasant but we would have both preferred having one starter of a larger size – it felt more like a selection of canapes than an actual course.
For main my gentleman companion opted for the roast corn fed chicken, button mushrooms, pickled red onions and a creamy lentil sauce. The sauce was thick and tasted divine which perfectly matched the succulent chicken. We felt it was missing another element though, perhaps some veg or a potato. It would have been nice if we were able to order side dishes to accompany our mains.
My main of grilled cod, baby squid with Vadouvan butter, sorrel with onion confit and Puntarella (a type of chicory) was absolutely heavenly. The cod and the squid were so soft and delicate yet there was a real smack of curry flavour running through the dish from the Vadouvan butter – which is an Indian blend of curry spices with a French influence. It was perfect and totally faultless.
Desserts reverted back to canapé style and three mini dishes were brought to the table. A thin slice of chocolate cake was perfectly rich for its size and was pleasant enough. A chewy lemon cookie was zingy and refreshing which I loved. The bowl filled with a sickly sweet orange sauce was so bitter we both found it inedible. It’s fair to say we were really disappointed by the desserts.
Petit fours were pleasant but nothing outstanding. A strawberry chocolate truffle, a little caramel tart and some sticky honeycomb were all enjoyable.
We had an absolutely lovely time during or visit to Sketch but it wasn’t because of the food. It was the lavish surroundings, the superb service and the comfortable cushioned armchair I was seated in that really made it so wonderful – we didn’t want to leave. The main courses were delicious and I wish they had concentrated on making one dish for starter and dessert that I really loved as opposed to four that I didn’t mind. I received a collection of OK canapes but I wanted outstanding dishes. Still, I’d love to go back as there’s something rather magical about the place.