9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
When the invitation to sample the new afternoon tea at sketch arrived, I must admit I was rather excited. Having heard and read so much about the place, I had always wanted to check it out, but just hadn’t had the opportunity to until now.
Afternoon tea at sketch certainly isn’t your run of the mill afternoon tea, it is a wonderfully special occasion with every minute filled with utter bliss. We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at sketch last Sunday afternoon but we knew the next couple of hours would be fabulous that’s for sure.
After passing through the totally cool reception area with its eye-catching artwork, we arrived at the reception desk of sketch Gallery, a simply beautiful work of art bedecked in pastel pink furnishings and adorned with artist David Shrigley’s incredible 239 original works, the largest group of original drawings Shrigley has ever exhibited. One of the team showed us to our table and informed us of how our afternoon tea experience would proceed – a lovely touch I felt which created even more excitement. Afternoon tea at sketch is an experience, a work of art and is filled with ceremony and grandeur yet with a touch of humour that works perfectly. We were to meet The Cork Popper, The Caviar Man, The Tea Master and The Ladies in Dots and Men in Grey. The French Chef was of course behind the scenes creating his culinary masterpieces.
We both chose the Pommery Brut Rosé Afternoon Tea; we were in sketch after all and it was a bank holiday the next day! Once the Cork Popper had worked his magic our beautiful circular glasses were filled with the bubbly pink nectar and the fun had begun. It was time to choose our tea from The Tea Master. We opted for the sketch Special Blend and were advised it would suit much better without milk although milk would be provided also just in case. The Tea Master was right, this tea needed no milk – it was divine alone. A glorious black tea with a rich texture and fruit aroma yet with hints of chocolate and caramel. One to remember for certain. Oh yes, and before I forget, the David Shrigley designed crockery was brilliant, I loved the little message inscribed inside my teacup – “Forget about it”.
We’d noticed a very well dressed gentleman in a rather catching pink suit and hat circulating The Gallery and were beginning to wonder who he was. Shortly after being served our “Eggs and Soldiers” (Comté cheese mornay with a perfect 63° egg yolk atop and Comté cheese soldiers) by a lady in dots, we were visited by the man in pink, otherwise known as The Caviar Man. What a friendly and informative chap he was, offering us a little background on caviar and its origins and explaining the best way to eat it to maximise its flavour and texture. I must admit, it was delicious and was the perfect accompaniment to the dish. It also added a touch of fun and theatre to proceedings that’s for sure. Long live The Caviar Man at sketch!
Plates cleared and fresh plates delivered we watched with anticipation as our tiered stand filled with sweet and savoury treats arrived. The sandwiches were heavenly, especially the pumpernickel bread with a tangy tomato chutney, baby gem lettuce, tomato mayo and daikon and the Norfolk goose egg and mayonnaise with watercress. As for the cakes, it’s hard to choose a favourite as they were all out of this world. If I had to go for one, I’d opt for the chocolate and caramel gateaux but then again the pistachio petit chou was pretty awesome too! The sultana and plain scones arrived warm and perfect with a choice of fig of strawberry jam and clotted cream. I opted for a different tea once I’d finished my sketch Special Blend. I have to say, the Nilgiri Frost is one of the most exquisite teas I have ever tried – an Indian tea offering notes of apple, brown sugar, honey and tropical fruits – I’d highly recommend it.
Feeling full and satisfied, we thought we had come to the end of our afternoon tea journey at sketch but no, a choice from the cake trolley was still to be savoured. I went for the banana fudge loaf and my friend chose the Victoria sponge, both of which were utterly delicious.
After a trip to the loo (I only mention this as the sketch loos are the most original and unique I have ever seen – a huge white room with a multi coloured glass ceiling and huge white egg shaped pods which when you enter play music and are lit with subtle mood lighting) we headed out onto the London streets, completely satisfied and very happy indeed.
Afternoon tea at sketch is every inch the special occasion I imagined it to be. It’s fun, delicious, interesting and original and we loved it.