When it opened Sketch made headlines for some of the wrong reasons, for offering the most expensive dinner in London. Since then, not only have prices at other top London places risen, but the prices at Sketch have actually fallen a little. Starters are a still chunky: £21 - £44, fish dishes £32 - £49, meat £36 - £52. Cheese was £20, desserts £12 - £16. An eight course tasting menu was £90 (less than Gordon Ramsay) and a seven course vegetarian menu was a nice option, coming in at £65.
The décor is still over the top French style; the crystal mannequin at the top of the stair apparently cost over £100,000. The wine list comes in a separate book, and has some very fine growers. Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle 1998 was listed at £70 for a wine that retails at £22. Didier Dagenua Silex 2005 was £202 for a wine that costs around £60. Egon Muller Kabinett Riesling Schartzhofberger 2004 was listed at £89 for a wine that costs around £30 retail. Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon at £57 was a good choice for those looking for a good wine without breaking the bank (this wine retails at around £16). Bread was either rolls of country bread white, fig or an excellent airy foccacia (17/20).
As nibbles we had a tuna-flavoured cream with cumin crackers, sea bream ceviche, cuttlefish with red pepper and wasabi, goat cheese and meringue and a jelly of whisky and Guinness. The ceviche was perhaps the best of these, though I also enjoyed the cuttlefish (17/20). Further nibbles were pea veloute with a skewer of lamb cubes, which was excellent, with tender lamb and a strongly flavoured veloute (17/20). Baby squid was not at all chewy, served with onion tempura and a tomato sauce nicely lifted by some lemon (17/20). A little cube of tuna was seared after being marinaded with green apple and lime, served with a pineapple sorbet; I didn’t think this idea worked at all (13/20).
I tried the langoustine, which in the style of Sketch (itself borrowing from Gagnaire) was served several ways, each in a different little dish (it is a good job that the tables here are huge). Langoustine tartare with crunchy bok choy and a spiced grapefruit syrup was perhaps the most successful, letting the high quality langoustine speak for itself. A mousselline of langoustine with cardamom and strawberry cubes was just a bad idea, and a langoustine jelly in a cup with edaname broad beans and peppered bisque was a case of over-working the core ingredient far too much. Better was a version grilled with agria leaves and dried bacon, and pan-fried in beurre noisette with powder of langoustine shells and a soubressade sausage. I found the more elaborate workings did not work well, since langoustine has a fairly subtle and delightful taste that certainly does not need much in the way of distractions (15/20).
Beef was again served in multiple ways. Pan fried fillet of Simmental beef from Bavaria was nicely cooked, but I know from past experience that you can get much more tasty Simmental than this. This was served with pulpitos (small octopus) and truffled breadcrumbs. There was also a pleasant ravioli with a good beef jus, on which were some thin slices of wagyu beef fillet (which in themselves were not that exciting to me, especially after my recent experience of serious beef at l’Osier in Japan). There was also a black pancake with bone marrow with Paris mushrooms and lemon. Overall I thought the treatment of the beef was quite good, beef being better able to stand up to assorted flavour combinations. The portion size was generous, but I still could not get really excited over this dish. Finally, it seemed to me over-salted, something that I rarely say (16/20 only).
I did at least end on a high note with the cheese, now sensibly on a board; this is supplied by Bernard Antony so the basic material is as good as it gets. St Felicien was very ripe, as was Colombier, St Maure was a little under-ripe, but Cantal had a pleasing, nutty taste (19/20 cheese). My companions did well with their desserts (I was too full at this stage) with a particularly fine assortment of ice creams, and an excellent Caraibe chocolate biscut with chocolate veloute made with rum, an almond biscuit and crystallised grounduts. Service was, as on my previous visit, superb in all aspects. Overall it just seems to me that the price is just a bit high for what is being offered, and that the dishes are, in places, overworked.