Sometimes you find a part of London that reminds you how glorious it really is. Occasionally there’s an experience you have that’s so delectably English and perfect you remember that despite the downsides (namely the weather and cost of living) Britain is great, actually. Afternoon Tea at sketch provides the best of locations with an experience food based dreams are made of. A very happy way to spend a Birthday indeed.
Situated in glamorous Mayfair just off of Regent Street, sketch is a notorious location for fine wining and dining. Since opening in 2003 the institution has gained a reputation for its quirky elegance and boasts 4 restaurants and 3 bars. Afternoon Tea is served in The Gallery which is currently home to an impressive exhibit of David Shrigley’s amusing artwork. The witty pictures contrast with the opulent shades of copper and blush creating an ambience that although classy, feels in no way pretentious.
After being greeted by the impeccably dressed hostess we’re shown to our table and begin to peruse the menu, table setting and endless framed pictures surrounding us. You can opt for afternoon tea with or without champagne and there’s also a children’s menu on offer. We opt for champagne. Because Birthdays. And champagne.
There’s also a menu of tea to choose from and we both go for a variety of green- one jasmine pearls and one flowering osmanthus. I was hopefully half expecting an actual flower to arrive in the latter (sadly it didn’t) but nonetheless the flavour was incredible and despite having the option to try a different variety I remained loyal to the (non) flowering tea for the duration of our stay.
The theatrics of sketch are what distinguish it from other such destinations and the well oiled machine of staff interweave succinctly throughout the service. As one pours champagne from impressive heights, another ensures the trays of tiny sandwiches are ready and waiting to be served by the amicable waitresses. It’s worth taking a seat that looks out into the room just to observe the endless choreography on display.
A tower of joy is soon placed in front of us and each edible bite is explained. Sandwiches are always my favourite part of Afternoon Tea and there was definitely a fine selection on offer. From classic smoked salmon to an actual grilled cheese, there’s something savoury for everyone. I even enjoyed the tiny egg based offering, which is saying something, although the winner for me was the creative take on a cucumber variety. Just when you’re in a slice of bread based heaven that you don’t think can get any better the waitress reappears and asks which ones we’d like more of. “Obviously all of them,” I think. “Just a couple,” we say. All about the pacing. Apparently.
After sandwiches, scones appear. After scones we start making our way through the cakes. The passionfruit pastry is tangy and sharp and contrasts nicely with the more refined flavours of the pistachio profiterole and chocolate nut slice. By this point I’m already feeling full which is nothing short of disastrous. Probably should have paid more attention to the aforementioned “pacing” concept sooner. Nonetheless we persevere and dig into the blackcurrant cheesecake as best as possible. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
You’d think that was it and you could now begin to recover but no. More cake appears. This time one raspberry and one chocolate caramel. They’re delicious. But wow I’m full.
We do our best to consume what we can and then finally sit back. The atmosphere is relaxed and there’s no pressure to move along which right now is very welcome as I’m pretty sure I need at least an hour of sugar detox recovery when OH LOOK MORE CAKE.
This time it’s a nice Birthday plate with two more cakes which was a very lovely touch. I try force feeding them to Tom who struggles. That says it all.
Another highlight of sketch away from copious food is the bathrooms. Just as well really when you’re faced with an afternoon of unlimited tea. Out of the pink gallery you emerge into a bright white space housing individual pods that look more like an artist’s impression of future living habitats rather than restaurant toilets. The experience is almost worth going for alone. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the only bathrooms I’ve visited where photos are so encouraged/ expected the attendants actually offer to take them for you. It’s also probably the only location where declaring #toiletgoals is (mildly) acceptable.
I spend the duration of Afternoon Tea at sketch living the version of my life I wish I could live more often i.e. sitting in gorgeous furniture, surrounded by cake and feeling like I have everything in order. The experience comes with a price tag but I’d say it’s completely worth it- the ambience, service and food is truly memorable and will leave you walking back out into the streets of London with a real skip in your step.
Birthday treats don’t get better than that.