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Sketch restaurant review: still the most fashionable restaurant in London, but is the price tag worth three Michelin stars?

Sketch restaurant review
The Millicent Fawcett room at Sketch

Number 9 Conduit Street is currently covered in pastel-pink wrapping like a giant fondant fancy. This being Sketch, it’s hard to know whether the hoarding is concealing building work or is some kind of art installation. 

Sketch, after all, is the multitasking Mayfair venue where the ground-floor Gallery is both a site-specific project by artist David Shrigley and an all-day brasserie designed by India Mahdavi. 

The endlessly Instagrammed pod-like loos, meanwhile, still look like something beamed in from the future, 17 years after restaurateur Mourad Mazouz asked French superchef Pierre Gagnaire to collaborate on a project with more layers than a millefeuille, combining food and drink with art and music. 

For now, though, all the attention is on Sketch’s fine-dining tier, the first-floor Lecture Room and Library, which made headlines last week after it was the only restaurant in the UK to be promoted to three-star status in the new edition of the Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland.

It joins Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, The Fat Duck, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Waterside Inn at this most rarefied level of gastronomy. 

The £12m refit of the former Christian Dior atelier was London’s most expensively designed restaurant when it was unveiled in 2002. With the cost of a meal here still among the capital’s dearest, Sketch has always raised the question of, is it worth the price? To which can now be added, is it worth three Michelin stars?

Sketch recently received its third Michelin star

All I can say is that three days after the third star was announced, I ate the best-tasting thing I have eaten all year here. 

Confit pheasant on toast with white Alba truffle is the finest expression of seasonal eating I have ever encountered, a plate of food that transmitted all of the bosky fragrances and mellow warmth of this time of year while looking like a carpet of fallen autumn leaves. 

But you don’t just get one plate of food at the Lecture Room. Each dish is advertised on the menu with its main ingredient – ‘lobster’, ‘sea bass’, ‘veal’, ‘deer’ – but what arrives is a multi-plate interpretation of a single theme, turning each course of the à la carte into a self-contained tasting menu.

Cornfed chicken stuffed with almond and lemon paste almost matches the pheasant for sheer deliciousness, but its side plate is even better, a crispy sweet and sour chicken thigh that kicks like a mule and cuts through all that elegance like a bovver boot under a ballgown. 

Dover sole is re-invented by layering the fillets with crab and spooning them with creamy beurre Nantais like an extra-luscious meunière. 

Each 'dish' arrives as a multi-plate interpretation of a single theme

The only jarring note came with an otherwise faultless blackcurrant soufflé, impressively served out of the ramekin and anchored to the plate with a sharp blackcurrant coulis that tasted like sugar-free jam. As at many top-end restaurants, if you have a straightforwardly sweet tooth, you’re in the wrong place here. 

Overall, though, this is a kitchen (headed up by head chef Johannes Nuding) that over the years has smoothed down avant-garde experimentation into a more enjoyable, easier-to-appreciate art form. 

Michelin insists that it awards stars purely on the basis of the cooking but as with its fellow three stars, I find it impossible that the inspectors would not take the bigger picture into account. 

To reach the Lecture Room and Library, you are escorted through a chain of giant paperclips, in place of a velvet rope. En route up the stairs you pass Chris Levine’s meditative portrait of The Queen, Lightness of Being, lavatories glittering with Swarovski crystals and a greeter dressed in a French maid’s outfit. 

The blackcurrant soufflé comes impressively served out of the ramekin

Full-length doors open into the Lecture Room itself, an epically proportioned space where walls are padded with ivory leather and tables are so widely spaced you may as well be dining alone. As a piece of sheer spectacle, it is unsurpassed, a haute cuisine experience with echoes of the haute couture shows which once sashayed through here. 

Staff appear only when needed while wine director Fred Brugues prides himself on granting access to wine with extremely low availability, including rare gems such as the Frédéric Savart Bulle de Rosé Premier Cru that currently serves as the house pink Champagne. 

As with everything here, the visuals are vital. Water is served in dumbbell-heavy Lalique tumblers and Chanson Savigny-les-Beaune is swirled around a serpentine Riedel decanter. 

Our expert suggests opting for the à la carte for an in-depth exploration of some superlative ingredients  

Whenever sophisticated foodies visiting from Paris or New York ask for a list of essential places to eat in London, I always recommend Sketch, a restaurant that has to be seen to be believed. While the food could never have been described an afterthought, nor was it the main reason to book a table. 

Now, at least, the masterpieces on the plate have the same recognition as the many other attractions in this immersive arthouse.

Who to take

Someone you hope will one day return the favour.

What to order

Go à la carte for an in-depth exploration of some superlative ingredients. 

9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG; sketch.london

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