Afternoon Tea at Sketch Gallery review: A fun and eclectic approach to a traditional favourite
Sketch is a unique London restaurant offering a diverse selection of bars and dining rooms. I first visited Sketch about 10 years ago and enjoyed the tasting menu at the Lecture Room. More recently, my boyfriend surprised me with Afternoon Tea at Sketch’s famous Gallery, of which I’d heard many great things.
The Gallery is a modern European gastro-brasserie at the back of Sketch. The dining room is a square windowless room with a domed roof and pinky bronze panelling at the bar. The room is painted in pale pink with matching, plush velvet furniture – a sort of mix between a princess bedroom and a Mad Men 1960s vibe. The walls are covered with drawings by British artist David Shrigley (famous for the recently departed ‘Really Good’ sculpture on the Fourth Plinth). Since my visit, Shrigley’s 239 black and white drawings have been replaced by 91 of his newer pieces so in terms of décor, there has been a slight change.
Admittedly, the Sketch Classic Afternoon Tea is more expensive than others, but in hindsight the overall experience surpasses its cheaper rivals so you can see the difference. The Sketch Classic Afternoon Tea starts at £59pp, with the option to add-on Champagne. As we were celebrating a special occasion, we pushed the boat out and added Pommery Brut Rose. I’m normally one for traditional Champagne or Prosecco, but being in such a pink room, I felt inclined to follow the theme and opt for rose. The bubbly was served in a huge martini-style glass with long stem – which kind of reminded me of the stretched out dimensions in the Shrigley artwork surrounding me. There is a huge selection of tea in the menu and it took a while for us to commit to one type, before I finally decided on an old favourite, Earl Grey. I particularly liked the china, designed by Shrigley and available to buy. The crockery features quirky slogans such as ‘it’s not OK’ on the sugar bowl or ‘forget about it’ at the bottom of the tea cup.
Before we kicked off the main event, we were presented with an amuse bouche of sorts. Boiled quail egg and soldiers with caviar really provided a luxurious start to proceedings. The taste was delicious and rich and really whet our appetites. The Afternoon Tea itself is the traditional three sections of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. The sandwiches are a great mix of brown and white bread, as I find some fillings just work better with one or the other. The fillings included Corn-fed coronation chicken; ‘igor’ tomato chutney, lettuce and mayonnaise; Oxfordshire duck egg and mayonnaise, quail egg and watercress; and Scottish smoked salmon and Jacob’s cream. The sandwiches were freshly prepared, slightly moist and were thankfully a good temperature as I hate chilled, dry sandwiches.
The scones themselves were suitably large and still warm from the oven, with the choice of plain or sultana. I opted for the sultana one with lashing of jam and a bit of Cornish clothed cream. Absolutely gorgeous, there’s nothing quite like a fresh hot scone.
Finally, the desserts were certainly an eclectic mix, with a selection of caramel and blackcurrant macaron; vanilla and hibiscus opera cake; almond and lemon cake; and Yorkshire rhubarb and raspberry cheesecake. Finally, we were presented with a long thick curl of Malabar marshmallow – which definitely added a playful injection to the meal. The cakes were really good quality and tasted heavenly. I particularly loved the hibiscus opera cake. I’m a huge fan of hibiscus as a flavour and don’t believe it is utilised enough as an ingredient outside Mexican cuisine.
Throughout our tea, we were served by a variety of friendly and chic staff, each responsible for a different section of the meal. With their different uniforms and presentation methods, there was a real sense of theatre that really livened up the meal. The fun nature of the presentation, along with the striking interiors, gave an amusing slant to our visit. Of course, I can’t review Sketch without mentioning the famous toilets – something I don’t usually address in my reviews. Instead of cubicles, toilets are located in individual pods in a futuristic room overlooked by multi-coloured light panels. I wasn’t the only woman in the ladies loving this Cocoon-like environment with many people snapping away and posing for selfies. Overall, Afternoon Tea at Sketch really was a fabulous experience. The food was exquisite, the service was brilliant and I loved the atmosphere and style of the interiors. While it is more expensive than other afternoon teas, it’s clear to see why the Sketch offering is leaps ahead of other establishments in the capital. Highly recommended.
- Gallery @ Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1S 2XG. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Bond Street. For booking and more information, visit the Sketch website.
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