By Lauren Jade Hill
Created in collaboration between stalwart French chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, Sketch has continually garnered acclaim since it opened in 2002. Designed to combine fine dining with music and art, this is a Mayfair institution that’s unlike any other restaurant in London. Here, the two Michelin starred cuisine of Gagnaire takes center stage in a series of eclectic dining rooms, alongside fine wines and a series of inventive cocktails.
Quirky is perhaps the first word that comes to mind when describing the décor here, from the Lecture Room & Library, which was imagined by interior designer Gabhan O’Keeffe, to the modern European Gastro-Brasserie, The Gallery; a space that’s instantly recognizable for its distinct pink décor and witty artwork, the walls here have been decorated with 239 of the celebrated artist David Shrigley’s drawings.
The soft pink interior, which was designed by India Mahdavi, incorporates complementary copper accents and playful design features from pink velvet upholstered chairs to ceramic tableware designed by Shrigley. This playful decadence and contemporary design sits harmoniously alongside the grandeur of the dining room’s herringbone marble flooring and domed ceiling.
Even within such a striking setting, the cuisine is where the focus inevitably falls. The menu consists of dishes fusing French culinary tradition with influence taken from cuisines around the world. And the French waiter I’m served by is certainly knowledgeable about the menu he’s presenting, with a story for every dish we show interest in.
From the starters, I opt for for the Homage to David Shrigley comprising red tuna sashimi with cauliflower and bonito veloute. The meltingly soft red tuna in this dish comes on a bed of creamy cauliflower puree, with impeccable cubes of crisp apple, silky tofu, horseradish and sweet mango, finished with a flourish of watercress.
The sommelier, who exhibits great knowledge of the restaurant’s wine and where it comes from, pairs this signature dish with a crisp Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, alongside the appetizer that comes most highly recommended: the pink burrata with stilton, Thai grapefruit, pear and Datterini tomatoes in which the semi-soft Italian cheese is laid on top of sweet tomatoes and sour blue cheese, with a Campari and grapefruit sauce.
On ordering the veal pot-au-feu main, the waiter enthuses about its resemblance to the one his mother made and the French tradition of eating the dish as a family each Sunday. The version here though has a distinct Gagnaire twist as the melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked veal is topped with asparagus tips, with notes of lemongrass shining through owing to the addition of a subtle Thai green curry sauce and infused pilau rice.
The Salpicon of succulent hand-dived Orkney Island scallops and juicy Cornish mussels then comes with Shimeji mushrooms that have soaked up the dish’s rich buttery sauce, with red and orange Nasturtium scattered across the top.
The Sketch Chocolate dessert finishes the meal off on a high, bringing together cocoa Arlette, dried fruits and blackcurrant marmalade with Manjari chocolate panna cotta. The crisp Arlette pastry on the side is ideal for scooping up the rich fruit, chocolate sauce, cool mousse and chocolate sorbet, along with the light chocolate meringue that’s placed on top. The sommelier recommends two different dessert wines to try with this: a sticky sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry that’s rich in dried fruit, and a Cockburn vintage port from the Summer of Love, 1967, proving the drinks offering here matches up to the exciting gastronomy.
Staying in tune with the season, The Gallery has just launched its new menu.