Housed in an 18th-century townhouse on Mayfair’s Conduit Street, Sketch is a London dining emporium like no other, conceived by the Momo restaurateur Mourad Mazouz and made up of a number of uniquely decorated spaces. The Gallery is part of a long-term programme of artist-designed dining-rooms; for this incarnation, David Shrigley has created a smart and sophisticated place to sample the delicious and inventive brasserie food on offer from the French master chef Pierre Gagnaire.
At the entrance to this luxury hotspot, smiling staff greet you warmly and, as they lead you to your table, they make it feel like you’re sitting down to dinner at an old friend’s house… albeit an old friend who happens to have an amazing art collection. Before you look at the menu (complete with a pop-out paper knife and fork), take in your surroundings, which are densely covered with 239 cartoonish drawings by Shrigley. The interiors are the work of India Mahdavi and include delightful scalloped blush-pink banquettes, candyfloss walls and shiny copper details. Shirgley has also created a 22-piece tableware set featuring drawings and doodles; the words ‘an empty dish’ hide underneath your food, only to be revealed when you clean your plate. Of course, it’s also worth a trip to the bathroom to see those infamous toilet cubicles, which resemble something like giant dinosaur eggs. And if you look up, there is a beautiful, multicoloured ceiling akin to a Rubik’s Cube.
Ask the helpful waiters – who are dressed smartly in uniforms by the late Richard Nicoll – to give you their recommendations, because Gagnaire’s extensive menu of modern European creations is filled with so many tempting dishes that it was hard to decide. To start, choose from glorious combinations such as sliced avocado and pink grapefruit; leeks and razor clams; and black rice, basmati rice, lobster bisque, red pepper and wasabi.
For the main course, we opted to share the beef between two, which was huge and came with a mountain of deliciously crispy onion rings. Seafood-lovers are also well catered for with Sketch fish and chips – Pollock with coleslaw, green apple, mushy peas and ‘Sketchup’ – and sole meunière with beurre Nantais and Swiss chard leaves. The vegetarian plates, among them an open ravioli of apricot and fresh almonds, girolles, vegetable broth and chervil, sounded equally lovely. Willy Wonka would certainly be happy with the dessert selection, which ranges from inverted profiteroles (choux filled with dark chocolate ganache, chocolate veil, crème anglaise with black sesame seeds and caramelised pear) to green-matcha-tea meringues, coconut-milk mousseline and dragon fruit.
Enjoying one of the most imaginative menus in London, either as an indulgent date night or a catch-up with foodie friends, in wonderfully thought-provoking surrounds.
Sketch (020 7659 4500; sketch.london) 9 Conduit Street, London W1.
Courtesy of harpersbazaar