At the risk of repeating myself – for I know I’ve made this point before – I am not what you’d call thin and beautiful. I’d argue anyone who does this eating-out-for-a-living thing could, feasibly, remain beautiful but, if you’re doing your job properly, thin should not be an option. This is not a role where you can get away with pushing a rocket leaf around a plate or laughing off a signature dessert because you had a satsuma last Thursday and are still full. Eat. Try it all. Learn. Express opinion. That’s how it’s done.
So, yes, Sketch is thus somewhere that, as decidedly non-thin and beautiful type, would not normally register. The well-dressed clientele. The achingly Instagrammable décor and food and, yes, toilets: those celebrated isolation pod WCs are still present and correct.
The times I have been forced through the door though – book launches, young relatives coming into town who wanted cake somewhere famous and hip, that sort of thing – it’s been mostly welcoming. As much as I joke about being asked to leave so they can fit in another four thin and beautiful people, that’s not actually happened as yet and, clearly, the staff at Sketch – charming and efficient to a person – are never going to evict you for being chunky. Also, they’re mostly tiny and I have a very low centre of gravity so I’d love to see them try…
But I digress. This visit was to visit The Glade for their surprisingly good value set lunch.As the name suggests, the theme is of The Glade is woodland: grass-like, deep pile carpet and tree-themed walls. There are also two fabulously fluffy pouffes at the entrance, although the colours – Cookie Monster blue, Oscar the Grouch green – suggest they’re the result of a hunting expedition down Sesame Street. It’s a wonderfully eccentric room though and, even with the skinned Muppets, soothing and restful.
While the ready availability of champagne can push the bill northwards (and the sommelier is VERY persuasive), those of you with willpower can enjoy a set menu of crowd pleasing fare – with the occasional twist – for a fairly respectable £32 for two courses or £40 for three. Yes, you can eat cheaper even in this postcode, but then you also wouldn’t get to see two dead muppets as furniture so, you know, tomato / to-mah-to, plus my companion, who’s far more glamorous and gainfully employed than me, clearly appreciated Sketch far more than the sort of places I’d usually duck into for a cheap lunch.
Cod croquette with endive salad isn’t especially revolutionary but here was executed well enough, while my vegetable poke bowl, while a little under-spiced for my (admittedly extreme) tastes, was a generous, virtuous and pretty plate of food.Duck breast with grilled baby carrots came with one of those aforementioned twists in the shape of fig jam, resulting in a pleasingly sticky / sweet dish of well-cooked, just-pink-enough duck and rich fruit. Meanwhile, my gnocchi, green velouté and roasted pine nuts was a simple, warming, buttery hug of a dish. There’s better pasta in London, to be sure, but as comfort eating goes, this was more than adequate. Also, in case you’re wondering about my choices, no, I’m not going vegetarian. I’ve been writing a book for a steak restaurant and even I need a break from animal protein.
Desserts are a mix of classic – good ice cream, a pistachio parfait – and, with the “Dried prunes, Pu-erh tea, orange salad, pear sorbet”, the decidedly left-of-centre. Obviously we had to pick the latter, and it was proof that, somewhere in that kitchen, there’s a person with a fine grasp of ingredients and flavours. It also more than justified the additional £8.
Will I rush back? Well, not rush, but that’s just me. I’d return willingly though, which, in the circumstances, is quite the compliment.
9 Conduit Street
London W1S 2XG