Ultra modern looking complex of eateries under one roof with this French restaurant resembling a library, with the comfiest of chairs and some of the most elaborate menu choices and dishes in London
Finally I’ve got back to do Sketch at The Lecture Room and Library properly since its promotion to two stars. The main features that hit me on this venue were the fabulously modern design of the restaurant and the theatre that was laid on in terms of the elegant service and food. The sommelier deserves a special mention as he was one of the best ones I have experienced in years and was frankly one of the best components of the evening – enough to want to go back on this count alone. The tasting menu at £110 per person (£276pp all in) was without question technically at 2 Michelin starred level and showed stylish flare in the seemingly never-ending treats afforded. I thought the food was sublimely stylish and very skillful but I honestly only got two real wonder-moments of happiness from the food and they were the seabass and pigeon dishes (possibly the nicest pigeon I have ever had). An unfortunate episode of crab shell in one of the dishes has also not helped the overall food grade but a very pleasant experience overall and you will be very well looked after here. A quality affair with genuine panache. The detailed food review is below the photos.
The opening nibbles were entitled Feuilletés as opposed to amuse bouche – on asking what the difference is there was a mixed response from the service as to the explanation; google has it as a puff pastry case with sweet or savoury filling, but certainly none seen on our nibbles. Not a massive point but showed the quirkiness going a step too far as it was not the case. Anyhow, the dirty martini gels, cheese puffs, squid ink sticks with oil dip and chocolate foie gras opening bites were very pleasant indeed – no question on the refinement of these little opening bites as was the brown butter (beurre noisette with cream creating a soft butter sauce). The breads were beautifully fresh as well but the clear winner of the three was the butter bread.
The champagne (Jacquesson) was recommended by the superb sommelier (so genuinely hospitable and attentive to our needs) and worked well with all seafood and light dishes had and was somehow with depth and lightness at the same time. The langoustine was superb with a wonderful glaze and the crab with asparagus jelly, cucumber and seaweed with supporting mousseline with fresh coriander were light and sumptuous but had freshness as the main forte and one dish was unfortunately let down by crab shell being in the dish. This of course can happen, but when one is paying £110 at 2 michelin starred level, this is a definite glitch which impacted on the overall score.
The pike dish was again skillful and pleasant but the pike itself was effectively a mousseline and almost a supporting act for the morels and mushroom sauce which was without question the dominant factor of the dish, therefore the descritption on the menu (again) could possibly do with a tweak. The octopus and squid with tomato was very well balanced and again, the tuna with turnip velouté was utterly fresh – just no sparks of joy for the mouth happening as a result.
However, and I am glad to say a big however, the seabass with pea puree was an absolute triumph. The lightness and tenderness of the fish with just enough zing from the lemon to be powerful but without being overbearing was a delight and the pea puree was sheer silk. This was a fabulous dish and I loved every mouthful as it really doesn’t get much fresher than that. The whole roasted French pigeon was also an immaculately done dish. This was the most tender portions of pigeon with wonderfully well done jus to accompany and comprised of cherry bigarade spring cabbage and bhubarb with maple syrup – as pigeon dishes go, this could not be faulted for exquisite happiness. The supporting semolina with cinnamon and orange was also very good. The Morrocan red wine (Orlian Le Val D’Argan) was surpringly pleasant and had plenty of full bodied punch and hints of sweet cherry to accmpany the pigeon. There was also a clever contraption used that pierced right through the cork of the bottle and somehow made the vaccum allow slow pouring direct from the bottle to minimise oxidation. Clever, but somehow pointless if one goes by the theory of allowing a wine to breath before being served.
Finally, came the conveyor belt of desserts and these were all extremely well done from the lemon and lime foam with ginger sponge to the ‘dragon’s blood’ sugar and crisp and jelly, to the yoghurt sorbet and strawberry jus and the chocolate biscuit and mousse. Pierre Gagne really does seem to do these dessert collections well as was also seen at Reflets in Dubai. The vanilla turkish delights as petis fours were lovely, as were the milk chocolate bites but the chartruse mini pastries were not immediate favourites. The coffee cup and saucers from St Petersberg and the 1700s will undoubtedly please female diners and coffee drinkers alike and the receipt served in book (from the old library) is another quirky touch to this elaborately stylish venue.
As already summised, this was a wonderfully refined dinner and certainly was not a regret in anyway. Wonderful service and carefully prepared dishes were had all round – if only I had more moments in the meal up there with the seabass and the pigeon as these were the only two experiences that gave joy; the remainder gave simple pleasure. I would say Sketch at the Lecture Room and Library is a very good option to go for in order to treat someone to a special experience, with food being the bonus rather than the forté.
The overall score in the above grade bar is as per all reviews in that it is the average of all visits.
Food Grade: 78%
The uniqueness of the design of this now 2 Michelin Starred restaurant (1 star at the time of visit) is replicated in the menu. The outer bars and toilets in their futuristic design are in contrast to the design of the restaurant, so the entire place is probably not well served on the more traditional affair or diner. In terms of the food, I found the dishes extremely small, original and unfortunately not special in terms of flavour. It wasn’t a bad set of flavours but I do think this is a classic case of style over substance, which does not happen as much as the stereotype suggests; unfortunately I am prepared to say that the expression is valid on this visit. Evidently the Michelin inspectors differ on their opinion now with its promotion to 2 stars and in all fairness it has been several years since I visited so maybe there has been a genuine uplift in the dishes served; looking at the menu on the website it seems as though one chooses many dishes still but now has the backing of a second star to uplift the prices as well. A revisit is definitely needed now to see if there is actually any change.
Food Grade: 67%
Location (Click google logo for directions)