Sketch: Top of its league

The title says it all. Sketch may have been open since 2003 but it deservedly remains one of the best fine dining locations in London, its two Michelin stars thoroughly merited. A meal in its Lecture Room & Library was my culinary highlight of 2018, and a return visit there on a recent Saturday night reinforced how Sketch could also be in contention for the 2019 award. What makes it so good? Well to merit two stars, the experience needs to be the complete package: atmosphere, service, food and drink. Indeed, it was hard to fault any of these. Without wishing to repeat comments from my previous review, Sketch delivers opulent decadence by the spoonful: think a beautifully decorated room, where everything seems tastefully thought-through yet neither over the top nor out of place. When it comes to the food, no wonder the word panache is a French one, for this adjective perhaps best describes what Pierre Gagnaire and his team attempts here. Across a six-course tasting menu (omnivorous for me, vegetarian for my comrade), there was ample opportunity to demonstrate the practical application of this noun. My menu began with the artfully named ‘magenta’, an offering of pink sea bream and gambero Rossi coated with quince gel and combined with Jerusalem artichoke jelly and sliced cauliflower. If ever there were one, then this was a bold and inspired combination which worked perfectly, the flavours melding seamlessly. Elsewhere, a scallop dish served with braised turnips and seaweed butter (pictured) and a daring pairing of poached cod with a foie gras cream impressed, while my comrade rated highly her ‘Chantilly Lace’, a lovely marriage of onion subise with black winter truffle. Paired wines throughout showed great thought too, with a quite unique Chinon from 1989 being the stand-out glass. Nonetheless, Sketch saved the best until last with its ‘grand dessert’ selection, namely, vignettes of six different puddings. Monsieur Gagnaire himself, we were told, comes over from France every two/three months to compose the next set. The overall experience is far from cheap (£250/head all-in), but goddam is it worth it.