I`ve been meaning to get down from Cumbria to eat at Sketch for quite a few years now but i always seem to deviate somewhere else.Finally , i managed to get leave from work , booked the train , hotels and the trip was on. Sketch reports seem to come in a mixed bag , some love it whilst others can`t stand the place.Some find the decor gaudy and well OTT , others stand with chins on the floor hailing it as the pinnacle of restaurant design. As for the most important thing, the food , well firstly there`s no doubting that its bloody expensive and secondly after eating there i can now see for myself that again, its either a love or a “been and bought the t-shirt but won`t go back” type of thing going on.
Chef Pierre Gagnaire is right up there at the top of the tree when it comes to the masters of gastronomy.He set the place up in 2002 and immediately set tongues wagging with the phenominal prices being charged there. Starters are £28 to£45 , Fish course £35 to £50 , mains £38 to £55 and Desserts £13 to £25….so quite a bill when a diner chooses to eat `a la carte`.Unfortunately people were talking more about the prices than they were about the food at Sketch.I liked the look of what i had seen on the plates on the various blogging sites and i`d read enough about the place to make the special journey down to eat there so plans were put into place.Gagnaires “tasting menu” was priced at £95 for 8 courses and financially it was definitely more attractive than the alc and was probably the norm for tasting menus in London for establishments of such level…..Just one thing to note here -Anyone wanting to experience Sketch on a “Budget” then the best way by far is to go for lunch.You can experience the decor , the space age loos and Gagnaires cuisine for £35 for 3 courses with coffee and petits fours. Drink `tap water` and you`re sorted.
The restaurant decor and set up were truly superb and the best example of such that i have ever had the
pleasure to walk into.Entrance hall , stairs , dining rooms and toilets were totally faultless.No one could ever dispute the fact that the Sketch set up is simply the best in the business.We were greeted with warm smiles from the staff , friendly faces, and made to feel very special upon entry into the establishment. The Irish gentleman who we met at the restaurant entrance had his job honed off to a fine art ,handshakes, a lovely welcome , history of the building , we were made to feel like rock stars, lavished with attention.He was worth his weight in gold and a total credit to the company.
We already knew exactly what we were going to eat. We wanted to see chef at his best and the only choice we felt that we had was the tasting menu.To make that even more special , we would opt for the “Matching wines” to go with each course.The Sommelier explained to us that due to the complexity of Monsieur Gagnaires cuisine that this would be a very difficult task. This response did surprise us and is not a shared belief in the industry but we respected the advice offered and decided to proceed.We wanted a different glass of wine for each course of the tasting menu but we were asked to trust the sommelier and that he would match our courses with wines to suit.I explained at this point that i know my food `inside out` but not my wines, i wasn`t an expert by a long way so i asked the sommelier to “please bear that in mind” .The sommelier reassured me that there wouldnt be a problem.He went away and returned minutes later with a bottle of Condrieu Palat – F Villard , explained a little about the wine and that it would match up well with our starter course….it was also the last time we would see the sommelier that evening…..Really.
It would have been a decent gesture to actually point out the price of the wine at this point and not leave it until we got the bill to discover the price of the bottle …… £106 , i wasn`t a happy bunny.
We then chose the Tasting menu and because we were both very passionate cheese lovers we requested an additional course of Cheese as it was too good to miss , “Cheese from Maison Mons , Roanne, with sarasson cream ,Mostarda di cremona , crackers and grapes seasoned with olive oil and maldon sea salt”…How good does that sound ?
The various pre meal `tastings` arrived into the lounge , they were all perfectly presented , innovative and very enjoyable.We were then shown to our seats in the beautiful dining room , the bread arrived and i cant
say anything other than it was absolutely top shelf .My dining companion said that he had never had such fantastic bread anywhere on his journeys throughout the world.The seaweed butter was amazing.
Throughout the meal the food was exactly as i had expected, well cooked ,presented well and great flavours.I won`t go into elaborate descriptions of the cuisine as it has already been said countless times before on many websites and guides, we both thoroughly enjoyed the food.On a small note there was some pretty strange combinations, i would never have matched a perfectly cooked terrine of foie gras with Mackerel liquor and fresh Radish , ive never encountered that combination before and couldnt get away from the mind frame of expecting something sweet or tart to go with such a gastronomic delight.Personally for me it didn`t work and would never ever work in a lifetime of eating fine foods….anyone else agree with me here or is it just me ?
Foie Gras terrine , Poached Skate , Mackerel Boullion , Clams.
Marinated Stone Bass , Peas , spring cabbage , Mint and smoked Lardons.The stonebass tart was full of fresh flavours and very enjoyable to eat.
Scottish Lobster , lightly cooked with Ginger butter , Swiss chard , Banana Mango and bisque sauce , Lettuce filled with Black Venere rice.The Lobster was to die for , cooked to perfection , perfectly married flavours and a true 3 star dish.
This was a little salad made up from the succulent claw meat.
Roasted XXL Scallop with Nettle cream , Haddock , Watercress salad ,Seaweed butter and Rhubarb.The Scallop was very generous in size , cooked to perfection but ever so slightly over seasoned with the coating of seaweed butter , it was a little over salted.
It was at this point that our “second” wine arrived, we were already 5 courses into the meal by now ,
we had requested one glass per course and 2 glasses of Red `Grange Peres` ( at £20 per glass ) landed at our table to accompany the Veal. The Veal itself was a very rich dish , just how we like our cuisine.Married up with Arbois wine and morels , a classic taste.Cooking technique was faultless but the meat was very
overseasoned.Personally i love my food to be well salted but this was almost too much even for me.
Veal and Morels – Rump of veal filled with veal sweetbreads , Morel cream and wild garlic. Spiky Artichoke salad , Pear and Gorgonzola sorbet ,Mostarda di cremona.
The next course was our Cheese selection , we sat waiting for the cheese board but it never arrived.Instead
we were presented with Monsieur Gagnaires classic dessert selection .Maybe the cheese would arrive the other way around ? The various desserts were placed on the table and we asked at this point for a nice glass of dessert wine to match the wonderful desserts….It never arrived. It was slightly confusing going from one
dessert to another as there was so many to choose from.Obviously this is the way chef wants to present this to the diners but i found it slightly awkward and would have preferred them as individual dishes sent out as they had been prepared….They were all fantastic in themselves so a minor and personal opinion.
Cheese for the next course ???? No….. it never arrived. We were then asked which coffee we would prefer , the coffees arrived shortly after and without any kind of petits fours which we had noticed were included on the menu with the coffee.(unless the ones that arrived as part of the dessert tasting were the official ones ) We also dined at Roganic , Darroze and Koffmann over the weekend and all restaurants offered a selection of sweet bites with the coffee. At this point i mentioned to the waiter about the lack of wines with our food , the dessert wine which never arrived and the cheese course which also never arrived.He apologised , went away and returned with 2 complementary glasses of 2002 DP on behalf of the management.
The full service charge of £46.62 was still included on the bill….and speaking of bills , they don`t come any snazzier than this place and the old “hidden inside the book trick”.For those of you reading this post and attempting to squint upside down at the total….I`ll save you the bother , £420.62p
All in all , our experience at Sketch had its highlights and lowlights that evening.I can`t say i didn`t enjoy it , the food was definitely `interesting`.As for the service….. Erm.
On our way out of the establishment we were `captured at the door` by the Irish gentleman and given another `mini education` and guided tour of the building including the totally wacky “Toilet pods” just like a scene out of Alien , they were wonderful…`as toilets go`. And the Irish guy , i never did get his name but he was definitely our true star of Sketch.
To view all of the photos from the meal at Sketch – Click HERE
No….I wasn`t in the Ladies ;-)