Sketch (The Lecture Room and Library) … I would take this lecture any time

DINING OWL AWARDS5th – for dates; 2nd – sommelier; 2nd – decor; 2nd – canapés

When I visited: February 2015

Location: London, Mayfair

Team: Pierre Gagnaire (Head Chef), Mourad Mazouz (Manager), Fred Brugues (Wine Director)

Rating in the Michelin Guide: 2 stars

Dining Owl Hoot rating: 5/5

What to wear: Men – shirt and jacket and nice trousers and shoes; women – a smart dress and/or smart trousers and a top

Ambience: Fun, boudoir-like

Course of the meal: Pan-friend Carabinero prawns, “eau de vie de houx”, onion cream with curry bisque

If I could change one thing: Price (but understandable given the location)

Review:

The quality of the food at Sketch is every bit as good as other 2-stars but the atmosphere is unusual in that instead of clean lines and subtle art or colour schemes, it favours a red, boudoir-like feel which is almost Moulin Rouge-esque, with sofas and some private booths – I LOVED it. They also offer sparkly music-box toilets, waitresses dressed like French maids, sparkly stairs leading down to the club and a very friendly sommelier, who was kind enough to not only help us with our wine choice but wrote it down for us when it turned out to be amazing and gave us a recommendation of a good wine source as well (Dehesa Bon Tapas in Soho, close to Carnaby Street, if you’re wondering).

We were there for my partner Owl’s birthday treat so had the dinner tasting menu (8 courses for £110 at the time). With our glass of house champagne to start, we were given an astonishing amount of amuses bouches (feuilletes): a squid ink stick with olive oil, cheese puffs, foie gras sandwich, filo pastry puff filled with mushroom, dirty martini jelly with martini bianco on top, wafer dipped in Bombay aloo. For the meal, our aforementioned amazing wine was a bottle of AoC Bergerac sec (white) cuvee called “Anthologia” made by Domaine de Tour des Gendres, vintage 2005; 95% Sauvignon, 5% Thuscadelle (owned by the De Conti family). This choice was a result of my partner Owl asking the sommelier to recommend something he wished people would order (to his credit he didn’t pick a ridiculously expensive bottle even with that gauntlet thrown down!).

The actual meal (yep, we haven’t got there yet) started with pumpkin veloute with foie gras, beef jelly with Amontillao, beetroot, sesame seeds and lettuce – a lovely and light way to ‘begin’. We then moved on to pan-fried Carabinero prawns “eau de vie de houx” with onion cream and curry bisque.

Two of my favourite courses came next: Black Perigord truffle, with French asparagus addressed in two ways, parmesan, smoked Jerusalem artichoke soup, cabbage-stuffed cabbage; and a “Corolla” of hand-dived scallops with diced celeriac and pear, with “sauce Perigueux”.

The fish course was line-caught sea bass poached in a citrus butter, with cauliflower and black garlic, Italian clementine juice and Malabar pepper. This was succeeded by Roasted Challans duck Bigarade, with root vegetables and forest mushrooms, Bouillon-infused with cinnamon and cumin.

The desserts didn’t let the side down as we had Pierre Gagnaire’s ‘Grand Dessert’ – a combination of six desserts in two services. These were: blood orange sorbet with yoghurt in a quenelle shape; sugar water in a martini glass with raspberry purée; apple and chestnut foam; coffee mousse and chocolate ganache; pineapple jelly with saffron and langoustine; and rhum baba with green mousse and rocket salad. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be the pineapple jelly.

We opted for ‘dragon well’ tea which came with (thankfully only) two petits fours: white chocolate and caramel, and a chocolate biscuit.

Sketch not only offers marvellous food but it also has one of the most fun atmospheres and is near to several clubs (including its own downstairs) if you have an empty enough stomach to go out afterwards – it’s well worth a visit.

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