I don’t usually go to restaurants whose main claim to fame is their toilets, but since there were £50 vouchers to Sketch available on the internet, I ignored this historical bias and booked in for afternoon tea with my friend Johanna. The toilets are not the only crazy thing about Sketch, the whole interior is that of a grand Victorian parlour that has been decorated by someone on acid. There are high ceilings, chandeliers and dark wooden floors but there is also hopscotch painted at the entrance while a statue of two dogs copulating occupies the corner.
The full cake stand in all it’s glory
Sketch comprises a series of rooms including the restaurant proper, a parlour where they served afternoon tea and a large bar at the rear leading to the infamous toilets. If you are wondering the toilets are certainly worth a look as they are all set in individual white pods shaped like eggs and you must climb a spiralling staircase to get to them. Make sure to break right for female and left for males as it is not entirely clear which way to go (I was totally oblivious to the subtle blue for boys and pink for girls lights the first time I visited that indicate the “sex” of the toilets).
You can’t book for afternoon tea and Sketch was fairly full when we arrived at 3pm on a weekday however we were able to find two comfy armchairs nestled in a corner. Feeling flush with the £50 voucher in our pockets we plumped for the champagne afternoon tea which is £31 per person and includes a glass of champagne along with your tea and goodies.
The champagne was Pommery Brut Royal which is lovely champagne, dry but mellow. We happily toasted our situation of being “between jobs” and so able to actually enjoy afternoon tea during the day. Next up a tiered cake stand arrived loaded with sandwiches, sweets and scones along with our tea. Starting from the bottom there were ribbons of finger sandwiches filled with egg, ham and of course the traditional cucumber. The sandwiches were delicate and light made from springy, fresh bread. Next up was the sweet layer. There were fluffy eclairs, dense chocolate brownies and even a small lavender cake which our waitress advised us was a new cake that they were testing out that day. Finally, the scones which were fruit scones served with good quality clotted cream and a saucer of rich raspberry jam. The accompaniments were delicious but the scones themselves were a let down being rather small little pats rather than towering stacks. They were also lightly glazed which gave them a slightly cloying, sweet taste.
The “sweet” tier.
Surprisingly for an afternoon tea where you would presume tea is the focus there was not an extensive tea menu, only a short list at the bottom of the menu proper that gave no description or further information about the teas on offer. I opted for some Earl Grey since I am the traditional type while Johanna had the Genmaicha which is a Japanese tea. Both were served in silver teapots which are fabulous to look at but quite impractical as they get too hot to hold and pour. What’s more I am told that drinking tea from a silver teapot adds a different flavour to the tea as silver is not a neutral substance like ceramic. This is certainly nit picking on my behalf but if you were really a tea connoisseur I do not think Sketch would be the afternoon tea for you.
There was a bit of fuss about using our voucher towards the payment as despite calling beforehand to check that the voucher was valid, then giving the voucher to the waiter upon arrival, the £50 was not taken off our bill and we had to ask again. While we waited to pay another lady came up and asked if we were in PR. We just said no and left it at that as I don’t think I really need to explain how I came to get a voucher when it is freely available from Sketch’s own webpage.
With £50 off afternoon tea at Sketch was a real bargain, but I don’t think it would be my first choice for afternoon tea without a discount. Dining at Sketch is a little surreal and is certainly something that is worth experiencing once, even for the toilets alone. Whether you would go back is another question. However what’s even worse is that in defiance of the credit crunch Johanna has gone and got herself a job straight away meaning that our time together as ladies who lunch was rather brief.
Details: 9 Conduit street, Soho W1S 2SG (Ph 020 7659 4500)
Damage: Pricey but not with a voucher
(valid until the end of August 2009). Call beforehand to make sure it is still valid, as I said they were a bit funny about us using the voucher.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in this post on afternoon tea at the now sadly closed Tea Palace
in Notting Hill or what about a DIY afternoon tea with this recipe for decadent chocolate brownies