sketch: Lecture Room & Library

Gold Award
11 Reviews
££££
Modern European

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SquareMeal Review of sketch: Lecture Room & Library

Gold Award

Hidden at the summit of the Conduit Street pleasure dome, Sketch Lecture Room & Library is a two-Michelin-starred homage to glorious gastronomic excess and indulgence overseen by super-chef Pierre Gagnaire. His highly stylised, whimsical dishes arrive as miniature banquets: ‘perfume of the earth’, for example, is a cornucopia involving hay-smoked ravioli of foie gras and redcurrant on borlotti beans and mushrooms, snails braised with wild mushrooms, basil and datterini tomatoes, a mouthful of bone marrow and croûtons on nettle purée, and even a thick slice of textbook pâté en croûte with tamarillo sorbet – wow. Ample mains such as hare ‘in three services’ or aromatic rack of salt-marsh lamb with ‘green crumble’, piquillo-stuffed Portobello mushroom, aubergine and Marguerite potatoes maintain the thrilling momentum, while dessert yields a six-plate sugar-rush of wildly creative patisserie like you’ve never seen before. The dining room is an opulent, ballroom-like show-stopper, and the wine list is extensive but manageable – thanks to sage guidance from genuinely passionate staff. Sketch Lecture Room & Library is rightly dubbed “one of the best places in London” by admiring fans.

Good to know about sketch: Lecture Room & Library

Average Price
££££ - Over £80
Cuisines
Modern European

Location for sketch: Lecture Room & Library

9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

020 7659 4500

Website

Opening Times of sketch: Lecture Room & Library

Tues-Fri 12N-2.15pm Tues-Sat 7-11pm

Reviews of sketch: Lecture Room & Library

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11 Reviews 
Food/Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

Mr. Alex G

Top of its league
08 February 2019   

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.

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Paul A

Mostly very impressive
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.
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Mr. 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…
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Ms/Mrs. Joanna R

Sketch - Certainly Not Sketchy!
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.
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Ms/Mrs. 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.
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Mr. Dell J

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!
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Mr. Maram S

06 November 2011   
Good food, but I was expecting more after reading all critiques.
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Ms/Mrs. Louise A

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!
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Ms/Mrs. Mittal S

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.
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Ms/Mrs. 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!
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