A buddy of mine wanted to celebrate his belated birthday in Sketch, so we got together at the end of last week.  Actually we met around the corner at the ever lovely East India tea company, where they are incredibly nice and you can max out your credit card on incidentals in a matter of moments.  I did a little hostess gift shopping while I was waiting…

Sketches itself appears to be trying awfully hard.  This is one of those places that positively screams how quirky it is.  You know the type: the coat check tip jar is a moulded plastic tea cup, the calmness of the decoupage forest room gives way to a blaze of red, and the bathroom is a bank of elaborately shaped porta potties.  Actually this sounds a lot better on paper than it was in real life.

I do really like the idea of the interior design in the ‘gallery’.  Every two years it is redecorated as an art installation.  Right now it’s (Turner Prize winning for an empty room with lights on a timer) artist Martin Creed.  True to both forced quirky & Turner Prize styles, nothing matches – on purpose.  While this doesn’t add to the dining experience at all, it’s not disharmonious and talking about light fixtures is an easy way to derail a conversation when you need a change of subject.

We started our dinner pretty early so got a fair amount of attention at first.  We were under the wing of a fabulous fellow at first.  If he’d been serving us all night, I think it would have been a wonderful experience.  But it’s actually worse to go from charming attention to a waitress pouring water over your arm than to just start off with lame service in the first place.

It’s not that the service was terrible; it just pushed a couple of my old fashioned American buttons.  For example, if you insist on pouring out (a fashion I detest) then you should notice if you pour water on people or at least not be so stunned you almost fall over backwards when we get the ‘no’ head shake for a top-up.  And I suppose that utter blank look when I tried to order a rye old fashioned was my own fault for going off piste but showing me drinks made with gin or vodka on the menu does not lead to a good substitute.  And reaching in front of patrons to interrupt conversations with stacks of their dirty dishes is fairly rude.  And overcook my steak and then disappear so I have to eat it.  Hurrumph!

Double harrumph.

But you may be aware that I forgive shedloads for a tasty meal.  This is a good time to employ the Gallic shrug.  Our appetizers were good.  Nothing to write home about but food I’d eat again.  The steak was alright.  I’d have sent it back to be cooked properly if we’ve gotten any attention at that stage but as it was there was a nice sauce and a really interesting green apple gel thing with  worked very well with the peppercorn sauce & what I suspect was a bit of coffee rub.  Dessert was the best course.  I had petered out by then and had only a coffee and pair of macaroons.  (Or I would have if the coffee ever appeared.)  But I got to sample the ‘Sketch Chocolat’ which was a delightful marriage of sophisticated mousse, dark chocolate, and a nougatine sauce.  If I’d had a whole plate to myself I might have forgiven them everything…

If you fancy a vaguely orchestrated dinner amongst celebrities and their escorts, and are happy to let the waiters lead the way, then hop along to Sketch’s Gallery.  While you’re there; take a walk through the door next to the bar.  You can go down to a teeny black nightclub, or ascend glowingly white stairs to a bank of egg-shaped toilet pods.  If Fred & Ginger had danced their way through an alien movie, it would have looked like this.  That’s if the waiters will get out of your way long enough…



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