Sketch is a restaurant and art gallery in Conduit Street, Mayfair. There is a photograph of the Queen in the lobby. It is a wonderful photograph of her because she is covered in white fur and her eyes are closed, as if she just can’t bear to look at us any more. She looks like a tired rabbit human rebuking God.
Sketch, then. Its website shows a video of a rotating floral egg. It lives in the former atelier of Christian Dior in a house by James Wyatt — what is grander than that? It is a white miniature palace with three bays, which is a lot in this particular housing crisis, in which other restaurants must make do with only one bay, or even no bays. The effect of preening Age of Enlightenment Italianate man cave is ruined, very slightly, by the presence of a stone cat — or maybe it’s a dog, it’s not clear — walking down the outside wall of the building, as if considering a visit to Vivienne Westwood opposite, so it can dress up as a tartan dog-pirate. There is a fake newspaper — the Sketch Times — posted outside instead of a menu. It says: ‘I brunch, you brunch, they brunch.’ It is illiterate PR-speak — brunch is not a verb, it is an abomination — and perhaps soon it will be the only newspaper left.
Inside there are four restaurants. There is the Lecture Room and Library, which has two Michelin stars and asks its diners to dress ‘art smart’ as if trapped in some nightmarish and eternal Frieze art show. Beachwear, the reader is told, is not permitted, as if the punters of Southend have just popped into Sketch for chips and neglected to remove their flip-flops. There is the Gallery, which is ‘Modern European gastro-brasserie’ (is there another kind of brasserie?) which is very pink, and the Glade, which is very floral. Then there is the Parlour, which is decorated as the inside of Damien Hirst’s brain, but in the 1990s, before he moved to the Cotswolds to spend time with cows. It is raging whimsy with neon and florals; there is, for instance, a stag’s head on the wall, with a light fitting instead of a throat. It’s a cocaine dream with no cocaine, and that is a bitter place for any innocent knick-knack to end its life in.
Again, I am here at the wrong time. Sketch is an after-midnight destination, ideal for gurning and — is the prelude to sex still called flirting? I am sure that if you are drugged, it is ideal — the loos look like Alice’s palace, but black, mirrored and pornographic — but in mid-morning the parlour seems in partial recovery from the night before. Art-smart Londoners wilt in tepid London air.
I order an English breakfast and quite soon it comes. It is not like any English breakfast I have had before. An English breakfast is quite hard to get wrong, especially with Michelin stars burning in the fake library upstairs. You need only a reputable butcher, a conscious chef and a stove. What you must not do to an English breakfast is muck about with it.
Sketch does not know this. It delivers a gloopy mass, which I am sure is not mine, until I realise with horror that it has chopped up every element of the English breakfast — bacon, sausage, egg, tomato, mushroom — and stirred them into a foul £15 English breakfast stew. What it has tried to do, I think, is to make an English breakfast into a salad, and it joins the list of the worst crimes against food, to be judged in some future gastro-brasserie court. It is completely inedible, and I can only wonder — how did the bread, safe in its basket, escape this English breakfast pogrom? Once fashionable, Sketch deserves no such attention nowadays.