sketch: Lecture Room & Library 333

9 Conduit Street , London, W1S 2XG

Sketch LR and library 3

SquareMeal Review of sketch: Lecture Room & Library

For unadulterated opulence and OTT gastronomic indulgence, there’s nothing else in London quite like Sketch’s two-Michelin-starred Lecture Room & Library. Ascend the dimly lit purple-hued staircase and gawp at the explosive riot of colour across the towering, dome-lidded dining room. To start, a giant Champagne bucket appears and a procession of canapés begins, while an army of totally professional staff come primed for fawning. If prices are intimidating, remember that each Pierre Gagnaire dish is like a tasting menu: ‘fresh water’, for example, is a table-filling cornucopia involving wispy pike mousseline, frog’s legs buried in garlicky sabayon, a chunk of Arctic char with spinach cream, and crayfish tails in a chilled, minestrone-like nage. Other highlights are croque-monsieur in wickedly intense, jet-black truffle sauce and a five-plate extravaganza of Quercy lamb. For pudding, we favour a focused chocolate soufflé over the ‘grand dessert’s’ unrestrained excess. We also suggest submitting to the brilliant sommeliers for wine matching. Bills are as bonkers as the experience, but readers agree you’ll “feel a million dollars”.

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8.7

Food & Drink: 9.2

Service: 8.6

Atmosphere: 8.8

Value: 8.5

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Paul A. platinum reviewer 13 January 2016

Following the disappointing experience we had had at Gagnaire’s Rue Balzac branch, we had put off eating here and were almost half hoping that we would find Sketch to be somewhere that we wouldn’t want to return to - if it turned out to be yet another two-star restaurant in Mayfair we liked it would be overegging the pudding; so perhaps we might have been looking for things to criticise. Nevertheless, from the welcomes to the goodbyes, we were pleasantly struck by the show of professional yet relaxed expertise at all levels, in the kitchen, front of house and wine selection, with the one minor drawback for us being the rather over-designed dining rooms and the dark stairway leading up to them. We still think that the tasting menu is the best way to judge a chef’s talent over the whole range of dishes, and the youthful head chef, Johannes Luding, didn’t disappoint, even with the modest size of the kitchen available to him. A good selection of fizz heralded the impressive wine list, which cannot be consulted on line, and a glass of Rémy Le Mesnil made a suitable companion for some very good canapés - Martini vodka jelly, tarragon croquettes, squid ink wafers with goat’s cheese, chorizo with crunchy beetroot, and, just as delicious, some warm little Parmesan biscuits. We were now well and truly ready to take on the first dish. I am partial to the bold taste of hare, and the terrine was bolstered with judicious amounts of foie gras and truffle and neatly balanced against red cabbage, redcurrant and cubes of quince jelly, all laced with Guinness. There seems to be an inevitability about scallops being on menus at the moment, but the top chefs are succeeding in caramelising them just perfectly and here they were cooked just right, like pommes anna and bathing in a light curry sauce with leeks and celery. An absolute stonker of a dish “From the sea” followed: a Gagnaire original called bouillon Zézette, a wonderful mushroom and coconut sauce, offering up a superb oyster, an artichoke cream worked up to something special, top-class smoky black garlic with cauliflower, tender razor clams, prawns, caramelised salsify, and even the humble Paris mushrooms were a step above the norm. Next came poached and grilled wild bass with a brilliant coating of mimolette, a star anise-perfumed pumpkin velouté, Italian pumpkin because of its particular qualities we were informed, soya bean sprouts, grapes, chicory and walnuts. No question of local sourcing with the main course either - the lovely pigeon was from Angers, roasted whole after marinating in lemon and cumin, which accounted for its tenderness and its not-too-gamey flavour which found a counterpoint in a terrific Puy lentil, physalis and daikon mix with a portion of proper sauerkraut to round it off. A word here about the accompanying wines, which were good to very good at the price, especially the amazing Ch Figeac 1970 with the pigeon and the Ch Rieussec with the Grand Dessert, the latter another Gagnaire signature combination comprising a sequence of six small desserts, all of them quite sublime: a kind of deconstructed Linzer Torte with cinnamon and pomegranate, a coconut velouté, passion fruit and sorbet, pineapple crisp with a deconstructed (again) toffee (pine)apple and cream, and chocolate crisp with tangerine segments, all this and delightful petits fours. Altogether a very worthwhile experience and one that we look forward to repeating. So, just one more two-star venue to go; there is in fact another one that we have not tried, The Araki, but we are discounting it on three points of principle - firstly, its dismissive unwillingness to accommodate dietary requirements, secondly, we refuse to pay £300 per person for the privilege, and thirdly, we find its immediate award of two stars difficult to swallow when there are still genuinely classy restaurants without any star recognition after many years of producing the goods at a price we can afford.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Ian M. 20 March 2014

For birthday's and anniversary's, my wife and I treat each other to special occasion meals. Over the last nine years we have been working our way through London's Michelin-starred restaurants. In March, we made our way to Sketch. It is exceptional. At every level. The ingredients were superlative, the preparation and presentation meticulous. The end result was stunning cuisine that showcased Pierre Gagnaire's total mastery of flavours. Combined with a funky West End setting, a wine list beyond compare, exemplary service by staff of the highest quality and turned out in Saville Row tailoring, Sketch is worth a special journey. Not the cheapest but you get what you pay for. Sketch is a class act and ranks as our favourite restaurant in nine years of trying!. Three stars cannot be far away…

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Joanna R. 03 July 2013

This restaurant is fantastic. The staff are friendly, helpful and professional and the surroundings are beautiful and interesting. I was in the Lecture Room with one other for a dinner meeting at 7pm on a Tuesday. Perfect in terms of acoustics and noise levels. It's not uncomfortably quiet, but it is quiet which means you can chat easily. The food was outstanding, chosen from a menu which had just the right amount of choice in my opinion. A taster menu is available for a reasonable price, but I had the scallop dish which I can vouch for as being delicous. The attention to detail, not only with regards to the food is pretty unbelievable. The staff although very professional, were also very happy which makes for an even better experience and atmosphere. You could go mad and spend an absolute fortune, but you really don't have to. I will definitely be going back.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

Julian C. 25 January 2013

What a disappointment. It was our anniversary dinner (which they were told, so you think they'd make a bit of an effort) but the service was dreadful. We waited 45 minutes for a fish dish, as part of the tasting menu, only to be told that “the kitchen was busy” when we complained. No one came to apologise, and the fish eventually arrived after an hours wait. By then we weren't in the mood for the remaining courses – goodness knows how long they would have made us wait again! The waiters then avoided eye contact and we had to ask the sommelier to get the manager and the bill. After another 15 minute wait, the bill arrived with a different explanation for the delay. The discount offered didn't really reflect the fact that we hadn't been served most of the meal, let alone the bad experience. We weren't the only table to complain about slow service, so there seems to be a wider problem… It was a real shame, as we had been really looking forward to the evening.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Dell J. bronze reviewer 23 February 2012

Ate here for the first time recently on recommendation from a friend. Wow. I now understand why he has raved on about this place for so long. Difficult to describe really, but from the moment you are greeted by the maitre d and he flings the doors open to reveal the restaurant, you know you are going to be in for a treat. Theatrical, eccentric, dramatic. Its a whole new dining experience. Food was good and the service excellent, this place really delivered the whole package. Can't say too much more, just try it for yourself!

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Maram S. 06 November 2011

Good food, but I was expecting more after reading all critiques.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Louise A. silver reviewer 20 March 2011

There can be no doubt about it, this is a culinary journey worth trying! More of a dining experience than just a meal out, this is the place to devote a whole evening to. The Lecture Room is beautiful, with ornate gold walls, very high ceilings and a Moroccan/French feel. This apparently was Christian Dior's home before it became Sketch and you can see that it is truly a stunning building with his influence showing. The menu intially appears slightly confusing, however, the very attentive waiter will talk you through the menu and advise you. It essentially consists of many mini dishes making up each course. These are to be savoured slowly as each taste complements the other. For example I had Langoustine 5 ways for my starter and this was made up of 5 gorgeous dishes of langoustine cooked in varying ways. There are amuse bouche between the courses which again, are delicious. There is amazing variety of flavours, textures and colours within each dish. I am very daring with what I eat and would say that almost nothing is off limitis to me (within reason!) but if you are less daring then maybe you would not enjoy this experience as much as I did. It really is a phenomenal experience and I had sampled flavours there that my palette had never before experienced, all complimented by a delicious Hungarian…yes Hungarian…wine chosen by the sommelier. This is a fabulous experience that I shall repeat again soon I hope!

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Mitzie8cake platinum reviewer 22 March 2010

Sketch has never ceased to amaze me, from appetizing cocktails in the futuristic and mesmerising gallery to beautifully flavoured tea and innovative pastries (the green tea and passion fruit éclair is a personal favourite). So this latest venture into the upstairs lecture room and library was filled with ample expectation. Without disappointment I was delivered with three courses of lunchtime indulgence, with consistency and grace. The starter of lamb cassoulette served with spinach and ewe cheese veloute was beautifully balanced with a sable paste which rounded the dish perfectly and brought all the ingredients together, as diverse and seemingly contrary as they were. In a defiant attempt to see if the vegetarian option was executed in equal fashion (I’m often sceptical of this and believe a good mark of a restaurant is one which shows equal reverence to all dietary requirements), I opted for the gratinated polenta with parmesan and pan fried vegetables, curried butter and a side of cauliflower & coconut soup – including aloe vera and green apple. My eyebrow was just as raised as yours is now. However, call it alchemy, call it a stroke of luck, the dish worked to perfection and reinstated my belief that vegetarian cooking can and should be just as creative and innovative. An aesthetically pleasing dessert of coffee parfait, plum wine paste and mascarpone cream served to further enhance the experience and brought the lunch to a delightful end. Service was equally exceptional and together with the light contemporary yet richly decorated surroundings proved a good combination for an afternoon of food indulgence. Proof that those Michelin star inspectors were right on the nose giving this worthy establishment one of their prestigious stars. Go see for yourself.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Joanna L. 17 February 2010

Wow – what an experience, excellent from arrival to finish. Service was impeccable but not stuffy, food was exceptional and creative. Expensive but worth every penny. A truly theatrical culinary experience, in a good way!

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Jennifer D. 21 October 2008

I dined at the Lecture Room last week with my parents for an anniversary present. This is not somewhere I would usually have chosen but I pleasantly surprised right from the moment we arrived. The menu was varied and when we asked for recommendations the staff were so helpful in advising on complimentary dishes. I am so pleased still with the experience I had at sketch and I would definately tell friends to visit here.

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