My wife has visited Sketch 3 or 4 times with friends and has always come back raving about the place, mainly about the funky decor/cool staff, never about how mind blowing the food was though, so when I was taken by her last weekend as a Birthday suprise to “experience” what she was on about and being a lover of good and andventurous food I was slightly aprehensive. Our reservation was early,6.30pm, in order to make the late train home. When we arrived we told a cool lady (cool in manner rather than style) that we had a reservation for dinner in the gallery, only to be told that was not possible as they were still serving afternoon tea in there. On insisting that our reservation had been made (printed copy in hand which also stated clearly that our allocated time in the gallery was strictly two hour after which time we would be asked to vacate our table) a male member of staff went to check that our request was genuine and once confirmed politeness resumed and it was smiles all round.
We were taken to our table by the cool lady, who remained cool. It was at this point that I realised I was in for an evening of pretentiousness. Yes as described in the restaurants blurb, the gallery was kitted out with tables, chairs, glasses and cutlery that didn't match. Yes, I get that this could be interpreted as cool and retro but did it merit the acreditation of an award winning artist, hardly. Many start up restaurants are forced to buy up second hand fittings to furnish their premises without the help of artists and the affect is the same. The storey of the Emporers new clothes came to mind.
Drinks orders were taken promptly and menus and daily special were offered. Nothing was obvious on the menu nor initially enticing but as is often the case, you have to trust in the creative ability of the chefs in delivering something that is pleasing to eat, both visually and in the mouth.
By this point the 1970's retro plastic lounge chair I was sitting on was starting to irritate me, It would have been very comfortable if I had wanted to read the news paper or slouch infront of the telly but far removed from comfortably eating what was expected to be a taste sensation or converse with my wife without shouting. I asked if it would be possible to exchange my chair for something more appropriate which was done promptly and I sat happy again in a dinning chair. (what a revelation to expect a dinning chair in a restautant).
Starters came, mine risotto and my wifes, twice baked cheese cake. Both fine and tasty, nothing particularily creative or clever in a culinary way, poorly garnished but both did what they said on the tin. What did distract was the fact that I had to eat mine with what I can only describe as primary school canteen cutlery, under sized, under designed, stainless steel functional eating utensils, not cool, not trendy, just cheep and nasty and not befitting the price of £12 for creamy cheese and rice.
Main courses came soon after, mine sucking pig with red cabbage and gaufette potatoes and a side order of french fries (extra of course) my wifes, the beef steak. Very minimal presentation lookup at me from my “cool” plate conatining a 5cm ring of shredded pork sitting atop a dessert spoon of sweet and sour red cabbage finished with some micro herbs, the accompaning dip of Sketchup and french fries in a mini wire frying basket, very Bernie Inn. hoping the taste would deliver my expectation I dived in, luke warm and dry in texture, my wifes was equally cool. Not wanting to be over disgrunted we asked if the dishes could be warmed to a satisfactory temperature. To give the kitchen staff their due both dishes were prepared fresh and delivered back to us appologetically. Sadly they still missed the mark as a taste sensation, dry pork, over vinegared cabbage. The bought in chips were as they should be, bought in chips. For £28 plus £5 for chips my thought were that the artist must be taking a large proportion of this charge as commission leaving the poor chef very little to play with to make his GP.
No desserts were taken mainly as I couldn't face being in this room of false pretentiousness any longer, a quick visit to the egg toilets put a smile back on my face but the ubruptly rude “french maid” attendant soon spoit this moment of pleasure.
I undersatand that cool and hip are what the market wants but not at the expense of the food. Dinning out has to be fundimentely about the food and food that matches the suroundings, Sketch promises some amazing food if the decor and brand image are to be its bench mark, sadly in this case and in my opionion it doesn't deliver. Maybe I just don't “get it” or maybe I just saw through the Emporers new cloths and experienced it for what it is, a very average, over price restaurant for the want-to-be's of our capital.