We continue the London & Munich series with another solo meal from Bryan.
Bryan often travels for work. Occasionally, armed with his trusty little Sony camera (affiliate link!), he takes photos and sends me his thoughts on some of the more note-worthy restaurants he has visited. Other posts I've written for places he has visited (but I have not!) are Sushi Yoshitake (3-Michelin stars) and Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo, Luce in San Francisco, Olo in Helsinki, and The Square in London.
Other posts in the current London & Munich series include The Square, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Exploring London by Foot, and Alain Ducasse.
Going to Sketch in London is so much more than just a trip to a restaurant.
It's about entering the wild imagination of David Shrigley, the artist who designed the crazy, whimsical space. It's about tasting the handiwork of one of the most talented chefs in the world, 3-Michelin starred master chef Pierre Gagnaire from France. It's about letting yourself pretend, even if just for a moment, that you're living in another world.
London's most expensive restaurant is hardly subtle or understated. It's famous for its over-the-top treatment of everything, from its multi-course meals (where each course further comprises multiple additional courses) to the plethora of wacky art that adorns its walls, ceilings, and floors.
Writers have used terms like "sensory overload" and "gastronomic playground for the well-heeled scenester" to describe the restaurant.
And that's really not far from the truth.
The space is huge and is an adventure to explore. One moment you think you're Alice in Wonderland. Turn the corner, and you're in a forest with what looks like overgrown trees over your head. Hopscotch your way down the hall and up a set of stairs into a room decked out with plush pink chairs and jewels on the walls. The entire two-story building includes multiple bars (all with different themes), dining rooms, and a bakery cafe (five separate establishments). In the afternoon, you can even enjoy a fancy afternoon tea.
But it's not just about the space.
The food here is exquisite and similarly extravagant. The Lecture Room and Library is where the upscale dinners are held. This is also the restaurant that holds two Michelin stars.
Let's live vicariously through Bryan as we enter the whimsical land of Sketch and spend an evening dining solo here.
The meal begins with a delicate yet delightful tiny bite. The well-dressed server hands you tiny bowl. On top hovers a single thin cracker topped with just a touch of caviar. Inside, there's salmon roe and a light dollop of cream.
Dishes continue to arrive. They perch on the table proudly, looking more like art than food. Every item, every tiny edible piece, has a purpose and a place.
The wine list is extensive and has been recognized by Wine Spectator as well as the AA Guide in its Best UK Wine List. The wine list features wine from all over the world. You ask the sommelier to help you pick a wine out, which he does.
And it's absolutely delicious.
Each course has a theme which is then explored via a series of mini-courses.
There's Spring (£35) which highlights vegetables like fennel, asparagus, nettle, and morels via three different courses. Shellfish & Foie Gras (£42) includes creative interpretations of foie gras in the forms of "chantilly" and "Royale" while cockles, raw oysters, and razor clams are featured in other ways.
Scallops & Salmon (£44) explores grilled and pan fried versions of the protein in a series of four different courses. Finally, there's the Langoustine (£48), which explores langoustine in five different ways.
Let's go with the langoustine.
A single grilled langoustine tail arrives. It is served over julienned palm hearts tossed in a flavorful sauce. You love the perfect "pop" that the sweet langoustine provides. It's juicy, perfectly seasoned, and all around excellent.
Next comes langoustine barely pan fried with Terre de Sienne, a natural pigment, and served alongside a slice of avocado.
The 5-course "starter" continues with a creamy langoustine mousseline topped with Mazanilla (a type of chamomile), thinly shaved baby carrots, and enoki mushrooms.
Finally, langoustine tartare comes in a martini glass on top of lemon vodka granite. On the side, a langoustine consomme.
The main course section is similar, with each "Entree" comprising multiple courses exploring a theme. Choices include Sea Bass, John Dory, and Turbot from the Fish section of the menu, and Veal, Lamb, Guinea Fowl, and Beef from the Meat section of the menu.
We've had plenty of seafood at this point, so let's choose Lamb (£47), which includes lamb cooked three different ways.
The course begins with a small serving of Lamb Sweetbreads, which comes with a white coco bean smitane, a fragrant and creamy sauce made with white beans, onions, and spices.
Next is a roast rack of Quercy Lamb, which is served over a tamarind jus with Aubergine caviar (a type of roasted eggplant dip) and Roquefort. Quercy lamb has a protected geographical indication (PGI), and is only raised in a few villages in France. It's been well known since the 1770's (!) for its rich, fatty, and tender flavor. It is still very much prized today.
Finally, a slow-cooked Lamb Shoulder cooked with Vadouvan, a French Masala curry, arrives served atop a simple French bean salad. It's getting quite dark at this point, and good photos are getting difficult to obtain without a tripod.
Although you've eaten quite a lot, the server describes the optional "Cheese Table" in which you can partake. The cheese comes from Neal's Yard in London, UK and Bernard Antony in Alsace, France.
For £20 you can try as many different types as you want. They will actually bring all the cheese to you!
With the cheese, you also get green apple, thin slices of watermelon radish, roasted hazelnuts, a seasonal chutney, and celery sticks with paprika.
Let's go crazy and try every single one (!).
Even the blue ones.
What a spread!
Dessert is another crazy affair, including a Chocolate Souffle, a Vanilla Souffle, a Baba, and what's called "Pierre Gagnaire Grand Dessert", a selection of six mini-desserts from which you can choose either three for £16 or all six for £28.
If only we weren't dining solo!
After all that cheese, it seems more prudent to opt for a simpler dessert, like the Chocolate Souffle.
The server composes the plate table-side, pouring a deep, rich Venezuelan chocolate sauce over a chocolate souffle.
Of course nothing can be that simple here.
The chocolate-themed dessert still includes two other components, pictured above. Again, multi-courses with each course.
And finally, a few tiny, cute mignardises, arranged like minimalist art pieces, to finish off the meal.
Consistent with the whimsical nature of the entire evening, the bill comes hidden inside an old, hollowed out book (and yes, it oddly does say "peptic ulceration" at the top of the book).
After the meal, the server invites you to walk around and explore the crazy design and architecture in all of the different rooms at The Lecture Room & Library.
This one almost looks presidential, except for the loud lightning rod zig zags!
This one screams pink with wavy whimsical carpet and plush pink chairs.
Even the bar, called The Glade, looks like a forest with gnarly tree limbs spreading all over the place.
What can I say about this meal? Well, not much since I didn't eat there. Bryan spoke extremely highly of it, indicating it was his favorite meal of his entire trip. It's a cool destination for a visitor because it's not just about the food, but about the entire experience. Visting Sketch is part art museum, part high-end dining, and part wonder at how they were able to pull something so extravagant, so flamboyant, and so excessive off and yet still manage to keep it running for over a decade.
Clearly, they're doing something right.