Thursday, 7 June 2012

Birthday: Part II

In my family we tend to use any minor event in our lives as an occasion for a meal out. Basically, we want to spend every evening in a fabulous restaurant but we have to come up with some sort of superficial justification so that we can pretend to ourselves it's not that ridiculous. Promotions, exam results, starting a new course, celebrating someone else's birthday... Been there, done it. I'm so glad my flatmate also likes to indulge in this pastime. When I discovered Sketch's Michelin-starred Lecture Room & Library had created a special new three course menu complete with champagne cocktail, she jumped at the chance to celebrate my birthday for a second time...

I've been to Sketch many times for launches, fashion week parties, or afternoon pastries in the Parlour so I had experienced the kooky interior design with its preponderance of modern artworks and, of course, had snapped the obligatory photos in all the toilets I could find (nowhere else in London has egg-shaped space ships with French maids, or a crystal music box with swinging toilet-roll holders and wind-up background music). I had, however, never actually eaten in either of Pierre Gagnaire's restaurants – the more informal Gallery or the fancy-schmancy Lecture Room – all located within the former Maison Dior.

We were blown away. I realise now it was silly of me not to take my SLR to dinner but sometimes you just want to enjoy the glamour and not feel like a paparazzi/annoying tourist, so we'll have to make do with these crappy Instagram photos of the night. The Lecture Room is sumptuous decadence with a vaguely Oriental feel (perhaps leaning more towards YSL than Dior in the décor). And the food... I think I tasted the best starter I've ever had in London: cubes of mushroom and apple set on top of a mushroom jelly and broth, served with a scoop of spiced apple ice cream and two generous slices of mushroom croque monsieur. The croque was unlike anything I have ever tasted – a dense millefeuile of concentrated mushroom paste with incredibly thin slices of toasted bread. I couldn't tell whether it contained truffle or if the woody mushroom flavour was just so intense. It was heavy, but I could have eaten 10 more. My main course of a buckwheat pancake with spinach and seaweed in a light vegetable sauce, chunks of ricotta, a cheesy froth, confit potatoes, sesame French bean salad and shards of crunchy rhubarb wasn't quite as delicious as the starter but the portion was wonderfully generous for a restaurant of this quality. Sketch definitely doesn't do tiny, finger-food sized dishes. Nisha and I both enjoyed Pierre Gagnaire's Grand Dessert, a combination of five different dishes. My favourites were a blood orange sorbet served with a concentrated gel and tuille and, particularly, the bubble-gum flavoured ice-cream with chewy and crunchy miniature meringues, grenadine and blackcurrant. We finished it all off with a demi-brut sparkling wine from the Loire.

Possibly even more astonishing than the food was the level of service, something which I find distinctly lacking in many British restaurants. The maître d' for the evening, David, was so charming and attentive. He found us having cocktails in the Glade bar despite not having seen us before (were they watching us on CCTV?!) to take us on a tour of the premises recently redesigned by Martin Creed (and to compliment us on our outfits – he has the same Christopher Kane at home...). He escorted us upstairs to our table, organised an army of waiters who served us all night and then ferried us later between the various bars and bathrooms. Sometimes over-attentive service can feel a little embarrassing but he made us feel at ease the entire night.

I am now desperately trying to think of another reason to go back to Sketch... And if not Sketch, why not one of Pierre's other restaurants around the world (he now has 11)? I'm thinking Gaya for Paris fashion week – it has an entirely vegetarian section to the menu <3

Thanks so much for dinner, Nisha!


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