At the end of April I headed to London, in search of good company and distractions. London is full of both and this is how Maddie and I ended up at Sketch for afternoon tea.
Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, Sketch is one of the places to go for afternoon tea in London. It has 4 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor and Time Out describes it as “a place with wow factor”. All in all, it was promising, even if those promises included the word expensive as well as fabulous.
Walking into Sketch felt like walking into Wonderland. Going through what felt like tent flaps pinned back, into a dark, spacious hallway with various pieces of odd and interesting art, we were greeted warmly and directed towards the The Parlour. To get to The Parlour, you go past the cloakroom and through The Glade, which we marvelled very briefly at before we reached The Parlour.
Now, I will admit that we were early. Any place that takes your credit card details when you book so that they can charge you if you don’t turn up is guaranteed to have me arrive half an hour early. So of course we were told our table wasn’t ready. Which is completely fine, though we weren’t sure where we would go for twenty minutes, especially as it was raining outside and window shopping is only good when one doesn’t have rain dripping down one’s neck.
But we started to head back out, but the lovely greeter, confused as to why we were leaving so soon, suggested we go back to The Glade and have a drink at the bar while we waited. This was an excellent suggestion.
The Glade was gorgeous.
The Glade was beautiful, decked out as if there was a lawn party in the middle of a forest. With dappled green walls, moving mirrors to catch the light and wicker chairs, it was lovely. The cocktails we went for were delicious, and I have no doubt that any of the selection would have been equally good. And the waitress was excellent, suggesting other drinks when they were out of the one I wanted.
Edible flowers are the best.
Eventually our time came, and we went back into The Parlour to have afternoon tea. The Parlour is very 1920s and very pink, as well as lined with David Shrigley’s work. The overall effect was…interesting. David Shrigley is an artist whose work I’ve encountered several times, and sometimes I walk away feeling unsettled and sometimes I walk away with a smile. The full range of his work on display at Sketch meant I was unsettled and smiling which is a very odd feeling. And as for the décor of the room…I felt like I’d walked into a womb.
Some excellent crockery.
The Parlour is as different from The Glade as it could possibly be, and to leave a room I loved so much to go into one that made me a scooch uneasy was saddening. I’m sure that for many people The Parlour is gorgeous, but I wished we were still in The Glade.
With a choice of nearly 20 different teas, we were soon sipping away from china designed by David Shrigley. Although we were served our drinks fast, it then took another 20 minutes before we saw any sandwiches or cake. I may have missed a memo about current afternoon tea etiquette, but I always assumed one had the tea with the sandwiches and cake. Happily, the tea is refillable so we weren’t left as bereft of beverages as I was concerned we might be.
So much food. So much.
The food was delightful. Tiny parcels of pesto and chicken, salmon sandwiches with caviar sprinkled on them, cucumber and asparagus sandwiches…The list goes on. I would recommend not biting into caviar though. I didn’t realise what it was until I had. Rookie mistake.
Cakes included the densest coffee and chocolate cake topped with gold leaf, adorable strawberry tarts and profiteroles filled with raspberry sauce. In addition to the cake stand, we had a scone each and the pudding of the day, which was pear something French.
For the most part, the food was delicious, and the bits that weren’t are a question of taste. Like the egg sandwiches that had olives in them. I’m not a proper adult yet and do not enjoy olives. At all. So on grounds of food, I would very much recommend Sketch.
The toilets were space pods. SPACE. PODS.
Some of the other bits of the experience were less good. For one thing, when we sat down, I sat in the booth rather than the chair and the man leading us to our table then trapped me there by pushing the table in. Then he moved the next table along closer to us, as if to make sure that I would never escape. This proved awkward when I had to ask the people next to us to move their table and then ask Maddie to move ours so I could discover the ridiculous toilets. I got some serious side-eye, but it was that or climbing over the back of the booth.
We also couldn’t pay the bill. Which is to say, after we were presented with the bill, no-one came to ask us to pay it. For half an hour. In which time the people next to us, who had been given their bill at the same time, paid and went. In the end, I had to flag a passing waitress down.
Overall, I really wasn’t impressed with the service at Sketch. I’m not sure if me and Maddie looked particularly young or out of place, but we were paying the same £45 as everyone else. So while the food was great, and the décor fascinating, the lack of good service and being wedged into a corner dampened the experience as much as the rain had dampened our window shopping plans.