REVIEW: The Gallery, Sketch, Conduit Street, Mayfair

Sketch has to be one of the most wackiest place to eat and drink in London. I remember the first time I walked into this crazy Alice of Wonderland like world. A bloody grand staircase set the scene for a murder, stuffed chickens adorned one side of the wall and all the furniture was moulded into the floor, with what looked like the largest piece of PVC known to man. Second time round (this time eating) the place was still certainly very wacky, but not as crazy as I once remembered it. A quick drink in the eclectic Parlour bar turned out to be a great idea. Surprisingly affordable too, with house wine starting at £6 a glass and good quality cocktails around £10. Step in to any of the restaurants here however and affordable becomes a fantasy, much like everything here at Sketch.

Prices here at The Gallery are certainly not as eye gouging as they are at Sketch’s two Michelin starred Lecture Room, but they’re still pretty eye watering. To start off we had some homemade bread, which was actually very lovely. Starter of choice was escargots with black garlic and spinach galette. To look at it’s rich, lacquered green broth was a real eye pleaser but as a dish it was all just pleasant. The snails were well cooked and the garlic really came through but something just didn’t quite excite with this dish. Being only lukewarm too didn’t help this dish either, especially when they have an army of staff around the room, dressed in what looked like, fitted prison attire.

Main courses started off to just plain weird, if I’m being frank. The Gallery’s version of the classic fish ‘n’ chips were served in two separate parts. First serving was a plate adorned with a large lettuce leaf, topped with a vegetable spring roll (crunchy says the menu), green apple, mushy peas, tartar sauce and matchstick potatoes. The odd thing about this dish, was that mostly everything described on it, came out not as you’d expect – but neither want too. The so called crunchy spring roll was only crunchy because it was filled with so much lettuce. It looked like a Chinese crystal spring roll, but it unfortunately leaked only dry lettuce on to the plate, much to our disappointment. Matchstick potatoes we were told were a great substitute to the chips we nearly ordered. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Get a fork anywhere near these crunchy lattice nests and they fall to pieces, leaving a complete mess on the plate. The crispy Pollock was served in a pot separately and was perfectly fine, but it still failed to excite.

From both the weird and wonderful that we’d experienced so far, other dishes were spot on and needed no tweaking. Noisette of venison with an intensely fragrant juniper aroma, red cabbage, cassis jam, Brussels sprouts and spatzles (German egg noodle), all served on a bed of boldly flavoured shoulder stew. If there were ever a dish which evoked just what winter eating was all about, it was this. Sides were very good too. Gratin dauphinois arrived as two pieces of hollow middle potato, filled with its cheesy goodness on the inside and once cut through, its calorific goodness is left to run wild all over the plate. This is my kind of heart attack. Not to mention if onion rings (also delicious) are involved too.

Dessert was almost on the verge of being excellent, but instead it all become a rather confused dish, with every flavour battling against each other. The dish was named, Success and I was bowled over by the enticing description of a praline mousseline, hazelnut dacquoise, cherry confit and caramel whisky ice cream. It all sounds like a very lovely marriage but those intense glazed cherries, against the smothering amount of whisky in that ice cream took all focus away from what was the most beautiful dacquoise I have ever eaten. I ended up scraping off the topping and trying my best to miss the ice cream to finish it off separately. There was nothing wrong with any of the food on this plate, it was just that everything tasted wrong when combined all together.

One thing Sketch did manage to do seamlessly, is create food that was just as bonkers as its venue. The main problem I have with The Gallery is that the food combinations were out of sync much too often and in only one case a complete triumph. The kitchen certainly has some talent, but I wonder if the pressure of being creative or wacky in the kitchen is emphasised on too much here. Surely the venue, the playful crockery and the weird outfits they dress their staff in would be enough? I’d certainly come back to the bar here at Sketch, as it seems to be the only thing where everything feels just right. You may hope that down the rabbit hole is where you’re going when visiting The Gallery at Sketch, but I can assure you – it will only be your money, with Alice grabbing it at the bottom.


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1 Comment

  1. January 28, 2015 / 10:53 am

    I went a couple of times years ago, I think the place is a little bit style over substance 🙂
    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London