Sketch is a unique eating experience. There has always been plenty of hype surrounding the restaurant, because this is a place where the food is just a part of a magical formula of art installations, multiple dining rooms and peeing in a pod (the most talked about bathrooms of any London restaurant). Walking through the front door you enter a dark corridor where art installations flow out of the walls, and ‘lava’ pours down the stairs from the Michelin-starred Lecture Room restaurant. Don’t be frightened. It’s art.
Each room is a very different experience and the Gallery, where I ate, is Martin Creed’s homage to indecision. No piece of furniture, knife, fork or glass is the same. Design classics sit next to high street staples and retro gems, which, combined with the patterned tables, geometrically striped walls and 96 different types of marble inlaid in the restaurant floor, create a Willy Wonka sensory overload before you even sit down.
Our candy red booth looked into the entire room and we had to stop and stare to take in the colourful circus before us. The menu has been left to French Master Chef Pierre Gagnaire and offers a ‘curious twist on classic dishes’ which complement the artist’s unique vision. Although the excellent front of house team ensures a calm and enjoyable experience, my first impression is one of excitable chaos and some curiosity – where are the Oompa Loompas?
Even the menu leaps to life – on opening, three forks pop up from the page to reveal a menu that caters for all moods and sophistications and so is very challenging to choose from. The scallops salpicon poached in a mussel jus with galangal and avocado appealed to my attempts to be healthy, while the beef and foie gras burger with French fries called out to my gastro teenager. The menu also offers delights such as burrata, steak tartare, ‘Dundee-Pinky’ (foie gras terrine) and a gorgonzola risotto, all of which made choosing just two courses nearly impossible. So we ended up handing our will over to the smiling waitress and her recommendations.
She chose for us a starter of ‘Hervé This 63 degree poached egg, leek fondue with flaked pollock and black crumble’ which showed how simple ingredients, cooked in a unique way, exposed mouth wateringly intense flavours. The egg that had been cooked for 75 minutes at 63 degrees revealed the perfect gooey yolk, while the white was cooked but still opaque. The spinach velouté with avocado, frosted grapes and sweet corn ice cream was a rich and earthy medley of sweet and savoury surrounded by shavings of spring vegetables.
The first of our main courses consisted of pan-fried organic gambas (prawns) marinated in vodka, champagne, nuocmâm, red onions and grilled fennel. This was equally sweet and savoury and declared triumphant. The poached turbot with hollandaise and turmeric revealed a perfectly cooked slab of fish with a rich and buttery sauce that was something worth savouring. We added extras of onion rings, which were as light as a feather, and some of the best creamed spinach I have wolfed down in a long time.
Two Wonka-esque puddings followed, the first of Malabar (Bubblegum), pear and vanilla ice cream, and the second called ‘Sketch Chocolat’: a tower of Ecuador ganache biscuit, coffee mousse, praline and nougatine, served with Poire William liqueur ice cream. These perpetuated our sensory overload with wonderful candy flavours dancing in our mouths long after we had left.
This is a highly entertaining experience – complex and colourful, it is a rare offering. Although we will have to return in 18 months’ time when the next artist’s decoration will be installed, no encouragement will be necessary.