Saturday evening saw me skadoodling down Oxford Street in brand new 6-inch platform sandals, a silk floral-printed bubble dress (my man believes that the bubble is inarguably the most unflattering style to have ever befallen womankind) pinched at the waist with a faux-croc Karen Millen belt and my prized baby Mulberry clutch.
This is me stupendously dressed up, an event which occurs annually at best, and testament to the fact that girls dress up not to impress you boys, but to razzle-dazzle other girls, because I’m enroute to a dinner date with my gal pal, and believe me when I say I have never, nor will I ever teetered my way down Oxford Street in 6-inch heels for any man (ok, except George Clooney maybe).
Skadoodling to Sketch
I’m on my way to dinner at Sketch, a little apprehensive to be honest because while I’ve read nothing but positive reviews (and seen photos that have led to the demise of my drool-filled keyboard), their flash intensive website is marginally painful to work with and damn near gave me a seizure just trying to chase the illusive link to the menus (you’ll totally know what I mean when you check it out).
We’re greeted at the entrance by the restaurant manager, who escorts us into a hopskotch painted foyer (which I refrained from hopping through – trust me, I’m not usually this cool, it’s the 6-inch heels and promise of a broken ankle that withheld my inner child), endowing upon us a touch of Sketch history (the building was once a much revered Christian Dior fashion house) and current buzz (a recently delivered mechanical porcelain masterpiece-of-a-doll from Russia, yet to be priced) before dramatically halting at a large set of double doors.
“And now, I present to you, The Lecture Room and Library.”
As the doors part, I half expect to see a landscape of toga draped Roman gods and goddesses, lazing by a crystalline oasis. Or maybe The Family Guy‘s opening credits cabaret show. But what we’re presented with is equally impressive ~ the grandious chamber that is Sketch‘s Michelin starred dining room.
Barely seated, we’re served a selection of feuilletés, including a teeny tiny cup of chilled tomato gazpacho, vodka & tomato infused jelly and cream cheese filled macaroon bites. All this before even glancing at the menu. I’m already wishing I wore the bubble as a bubble, without the belt.
Ini mini miney mo – oh, I’ll just have all of it
Menu perusal was a bit of a non-event. We zeroed in on the eight-course tasting menu, which we later realised was more like a fourteen-course menu, what with them sneakily rolling five desserts into one course (not that I am complaining!) plus an amazing choice of french breads, the feuilletés, and petit fours (which again, were actually five, sneaky).
Up first was Lobster Carpaccio, served with pork and cherry bigarade, broad beans and peas, followed by Red Mullet with a symphony of potato mousseline, bouillabaisse, shaved cauliflower and broccoli, baby squid and anchovies on toast (what do all these words actually mean?). This is where I own up to the fact that I do not have an ooh-la-la fine diner’s palate ~ my non-discriminating take on food allows me to enjoy food that I enjoy, whether it be prepared pristinely by a Michelin chef, or grilled by the burger boy on the corner. So when I say the first two dishes bowled me over, I don’t mean the technicalities of the meals, I mean they tasted pretty darn good.
It’s never easy to follow up amazing with even more amazing, and I was a tad disappointed with the next course, Mr Thilbault’s (who is that?) Garden Vegetables, served in cold pea soup with red pepper and chorizo ice cream (in my very humble opinion, the flavours clashed, the cold was a little odd, but the chorizo ice cream was definitely crazy-tasty), but the ante shot straight back up with Scallops (Addressed Three Ways), served tartare and soaked in ajo blanco, pan-fried with sansho, and with clocharde apple marmalade (my favourite addressee).
I thought dessert had come early when we were next served the Barsac wine jelly with strawberry and lemon jus. I don’t know how this dish landed between the scallops and duck, but it’s sweet. And sweet. And yummy, but sweet (did I say sweet three times? Yeh, I meant to do that). The “main course” for the night was Duck, roasted with green cardamom, preserved aubergines and green peppers, red tuna fillet glazed with banyuls syrup, served in a duck broth with foie gras. A mouthful to write and read, and too deliciously little! Yum. My second favourite for the night, after the Lobster Carpaccio.
Just as I was seriously contemplating removing my belt, we hit the home run with the commencement of the cheese course ~ Roquefort Terrine, served on a brittany sable biscuit with lemon wurtz and milk jelly. I’m not a huge fan of smelly cheese (I’m not even a tiny little fan), but the flavours were somewhat disguised with some sort of chutney mix inside the cheese. So I ate it all anyway.
I pity the fool who wears a tight belt – an assortment of five desserts
And then, finally, the desserts were served. We were presented with a medley of Pierre Gagnaire’s grand desserts, including strawberry sorbet with a delightfully light shortbread, sweet rhubarb with macaroon, French Baba au Rhum (sponge cake soaked in rum syrup with vanilla bourbon), blackberries with blackberry macaroon and sorbet, and a slice of chocolate mousse cake. Conservatively speaking, my sweet tooth is the size of a small island and I find it impossible to discriminate with dessert, so I loved them all, well except for the French Baba au Rhum where I found the taste of alcohol a touch too heavy, but that could also be because I’m a 100% bona fide featherweight. Yeh, that’s definitely it.
By now my stomach was severely protesting against this straight-jacket of a belt. But one more. Truly finally (I’m perspiring with exhaustion just writing this), the devine little petit fours… finished with a cup of fresh mint tea.
Lofty dreaming on a full tummy
A glance at my watch indicated that it was almost midnight ~ where did the time go? We’d been degustating for almost five hours. But I guess this is the appeal of Sketch. The fantastically trendy yet soaked-in-grandeur atmosphere, teamed with a (mostly) succulent selection of food, delivered with poise and professionalism so continuously (but perfectly) paced that you enjoy yourself without realising you’re actually enjoying yourself.
Highly recommended, although on the pricier side of what my wallet could actually afford, but quite possibly an experience unparallel to any other Michelin star restaurant in London.
And do as I did and dress up colossally for Sketch. You’ll look a million dollars, and feel a million dollars (and fat, but it’s worth it)!
Compliments to head chef Jean-Denis Le Bras.
9 Conduit Street
London W1S 2XG
0870 777 4488