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Address: 9 Conduit Street / London / W1S 2XG / England / Tel: 020 7659 4500

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      15.04.2010 01:30
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      Quirky and different place to enjoy afternoon tea but be prepared for the bill

      Sketch
      9 Conduit Street
      Mayfair
      London W1S 2XG
      020 7659 4500
      www.sketch.uk.com

      I have wanted to go and have a posh afternoon tea at Sketch in London since I saw contestants on the TV programme 'Masterchef' last year. They were making the tiny exclusive cakes and sandwiches served there, as part of their training during the programme.

      Sketch is a rather quirky bar and restaurant in Conduit Street, just off Regent street in Mayfair so straight away you know you are going to be paying up market prices for whatever you have but you are paying for the experience as much as the food. We took the 87 bus and got off at the Conduit street stop so it was only a couple of minutes walk before we saw a strange dog statue jutting out from the wall above and realised we were there.

      They do take bookings for some parts of the restaurant but for the afternoon tea you can just turn up at about 2.20pm and then wait for a table, usually vacated by a lunch customer. We arrived at about 2.30, afternoon tea is served from 3pm so we had a bit of a wait but were seated by not long after 3pm. There are not many tables and we were asked if we minded sharing, obviously we would have preferred not to but we were a little concerned that we might miss out so we agreed. Actually they arrange it so that while one party is eating it is left alone, as it gets close to finishing the other party comes and joins it. By the time you have ordered the others are finishing and paying and as their stuff is cleared your food arrives so you are not both trying to eat at the same time so it was not too bad.

      While waiting in the entry you can play hopscotch, well there is a hopscotch drawn on the floor! There are very interesting white chairs sort of morphing out of the wall, one has a handbag tied to the arm which I thought someone had accidently left until I inspected it more closely. The tea room is on the right behind closed doors but ahead you can see stairs which look like they are gold from the entry but as you get closer they are a strange red which 'drips' onto the floor. To the right of these stairs is a large window with an artwork that moves like a piston and a huge red light which shines onto the stairs.

      Up these amazing stairs to the left you find the toilets. There were no signs on
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      either but one is blue and the other red. I went for the red and kept my fingers crossed. It was quite dark with illuminated flowers and the basins were small round with mirrors behind all very dark. The actual toilets were in very small spaces, the toilet seat had a diamante design on it and once again it was only lit by illuminated flower designs on the mirrored walls. It was quite dramatic and pretty with piped music to relax you but I would have preferred to have a little more room to get in and out of the door myself.

      Back to the afternoon tea; the room was quite dark with round ball lamp shades hanging from the ceiling and a few normal sized tables and chairs, the majority of the tables were small coffee tables with various different chairs surrounding them. Bearing in mind that you are paying a small fortune for a very decadent afternoon tea it was odd to see that the art work was political type posters saying things like, 'Eat the Capitalists' and lampshades with skulls on them was rather more punk/emo than prissy afternoon tea in Mayfair I thought. It was all very interesting and certainly gave us something to look at and talk about while waiting for our smart afternoon tea to arrive.

      This is an extract from the menu taken from their website so that you can see the presentation:

      Sketch Afternoon Tea
      Traditional Afternoon Tea served sketch style, four assorted finger sandwiches
      (smoked salmon, cucumber, cooked ham and Dijon mustard, egg and mayonnaise),
      two fruit scones served with seasonal jam and clotted cream,
      selection of four sketch pastries and choice of teas
      £24 per person
      A lighter option for two for £40
      Champagne Afternoon Tea
      Sketch Afternoon Tea served with a glass of Pommery Brut Royal
      £35 per person

      As you can see it is NOT cheap but it is the sort of thing you do once in a lifetime and it was a birthday treat for my daughter as we will once again be away for her birthday and we were spending the week end with her in London.

      The choice of teas was good, my husband had an English Breakfast tea, I felt in the mood for an Oolong tea and my daughter enjoyed a Lapsang Souchong, they each arrived in different tea pots. Mine was silver but the other two were Royal Albert flowery designs but with strange cube like tower designs on their lids. All the crockery was old fashioned English Royal Albert flowered designs, the cups were gold and each saucer was a different pattern. The food arrived in double layered cake towers, the sandwiches on the bottom and the cakes on the top.

      The sandwiches were all different, the cucumber and cream cheese was a long neat finger of white bread, the ham and mustard was a mini baguette wrapped in paper and tied with a yellow ribbon, the egg was similar to the cucumber one and then there was a smoked salmon which was in a sort of brioche.

      The cakes were amazing, the tiny chocolate had real gold leaf decorating it, a tiny tart had a soft coconut custard in it, a bright purple meringue was so black currant and fruity and really tasty. The green macaroon was almond and so light, a tiny coffee and chocolate cake was also tasty but I didn't manage to force that one in as I was quite full. We also had two very light fruity scones with jam and very decadent thick calorie- and fat-filled clotted cream served in spoons so you can see this is not somewhere to go if you are counting calories as it is all very naughty food-wise.

      Sketch is not somewhere you would go for a quick snack or a filling meal it is just perfect for a glitzy, rather girly afternoon tea. Everything about the place is a bit different, rather glamorous and you really feel like you are living the high life for a couple of hours while you enjoy your fancy tea, tiny sandwiches and very exotic cakes. It is a bit like stepping into an Alice in Wonderland set with odd looking furniture and waitresses dressed in little girl outfits. Service is not speedy but I found that rather nice as you felt you could take your time, enjoy the surroundings and not rush to finish.

      In summary I would recommend Sketch for a girly afternoon like a hen party or birthday treat. I can't really see a group of lads enjoying the experience though my husband did enjoy it I don't think he would have come here with a group of men as it is just not that sort of place. I do know they do meals and cocktails in other parts of the establishment but I have only experienced the afternoon tea. I did notice the menu for the cocktails and most were about £15 so you wouldn't stay there long! Sketch is the epitome of cool as it's stylish, mad and quite weird at times. The works of art around the place are fantastic and very unusual. They do have art exhibitions there from time to time too so the owner is obviously an arty person and has had a lot of fun doing the interior design of the place. He /she also has a lively sense of humour which is obvious from the contrasting anti capitalist art work in the room where they serve the most expensive and luxurious afternoon teas.

      On the downside when our bill arrived it was incorrect, they had added three teas to the cost of the already pricey afternoon tea and the tea was supposed to be included. We questioned this; they apologized and returned with the corrected version. The discretionary 12.5% service charge, yes 12.5% is a huge tip I feel and there is nothing discretionary when it is pre-added to your bill but this was not the only addition. Another 89p was added as a 'voluntary' donation to the charity Sketch support called 'Kids Company' which works with inner city children. I think it is great that they support this charity but to add it on to my bill was annoying. I have chosen the charities I support and do so with a direct debit. I should be able to choose if I want to give a donation and it should not be added to the bill so that you have to make a fuss to remove it. I did ask what it was and got them to bring me a booklet but I didn't want to look even more churlish by asking for the 89p to be removed but as a matter of principle they should not take money from you without asking. I thought this was wrong. They were also at pains to explain that the tip does go to the staff and that the staff were well paid that is why they stay and are happy in their job. Well, if they are so well paid why do we have to tip them extra for doing the job that they already get good money for? No-one tips bus drivers and certainly no-one ever tipped me for doing my job as a teacher so why they should get an extra £12.00 for the hour of work that they have already been paid good money for doing. We paid a good whack of money for the food and service already so why should we have to pay on top? Tipping annoys me as you can see, if should be voluntary and only for service over and above not just for doing the job.

      If you are interested in experiencing the ultimate in afternoon teas in London and you have an afternoon to spare then I thoroughly recommend a visit to Sketch. Once you are in Conduit Street you can't miss it from outside as there is a large white dog appearing to be morphing out of the building above the door and then you enter the building and enjoy even more strange art work, many of the pieces are actually used like seats while others are purely there for enjoyment! The food is beautifully prepared and tasty. It is filling but it is not a full balanced meal as it is supposed to be a light afternoon tea. Sketch also offers other eating options and for these possibilities I urge you to look at their website which is as quirky as the place itself.www.sketch.uk.com.
      Thank you for sharing this experience.

      This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
      © catsholiday

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