Sketch, as the name suggests, is a work of art. Enter: dusty pink velour chairs and copper lights, earth-hued, chevron-patterned marble floors and three women playing the violin in one corner. Above the bar, where a waiter in a white suit, pink satin tie and white hat spoons a nutty caviar onto wide-eyed first-timer’s plates, is a dull gold-plated canvas. The surrounding walls are covered in David Shrigley paintings, at once profound and playful. I find myself seated, matcha bellini in hand, next to a painting of a pink astronaut and the sentence, “I have been to the moon many times. I always have a fantastic time there and I am sad when it is time to come back to Earth.”
It was as if the painting were a fortune cookie – or in this case, perhaps a chocolate éclair – because afternoon tea in the gallery is indeed like a trip to a plush place of mouth-watering wonder. A bronze cart of tea is parked near my table, and I move from the sparkling bellini made with grapes from Chardonnay to a warm, silky Jasmine silver needle tea (the Imperial Qing Lapsang Souchong with a smokier, malty fullness). As a tiered tray of foie gras tartlettes, truffle egg gougéres, salmon sandwiches, mara des bois strawberry cheesecakes and more appear (and just as quickly disappear), I can’t help but feel like I am on an intergalactic voyage. Waitresses in gold dresses and wings flit by. A gentleman in what looks like a mechanic’s overalls explains the texture of tea (the dress code is ‘art smart’). I move to a darker, Gaba, an oolong tea from Taiwan. Beside me on this journey is an American couple gushing about their scones and clotted cream, they were recently engaged. Across from me, a mother and a daughter are having their monthly catch-up, the Beriolette marshmallow helping to loosen the atmosphere.
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And this is the thing about designer India Mahdavi conception for Sketch: while its aesthetics are that of a contemporary brasserie, it does not lack in the comfort of a classic bistro; the food is conceptual but the flavours are heart-warming. This said, Sketch is much more than its food. It was once the House of Dior, and its grand staircases and swarovski-adorned toilets pay homage to its history. The art, curated by owner and connoisseur, Mourad Mazouz, is ever-changing with a few pieces on permanent display, especially commissioned for Sketch. Lauren Baker’s sculpture, You Move Me, is a beautiful black, crystallised human heart that beats and pumps, sensing the proximity of people. Dianne Harris’ hologram of Power Women channels the energy of love and ancient knowledge: part of the Munay-ki shamanaic rites that the artist was initiated into in Peru.
I landed gently in the adjoining room, Glade, on a mossy rug that provides the base for an intimate woodland bar, enfolded in découpaged wallpaper of an enchanted forest, created by the artists Carolyn Quartermaine and Didier Mahieu. Chris Levine’s lasers dart across the room, like fireflies in a magical, aubergine world. The atmosphere here is one of inspiration and imagination, one of casual conjuring. Every room is lit in a different way, and while guests can start with tea in the Gallery, move to an aperitif at the Glade and end with cocktails and DJs at the Parlor, each of these experiences is intense in itself.
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For a moment, the sirens of everyday life were kept at bay. At Sketch, the fantastical alloy of art and food is so uniquely uplifting that nothing can quite pierce your pleasure. Mr. Shrigley: It was time to come back to Earth and I was not sad.
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