For ladies and gents what do afternoon tea – sketch, London, is unbeatable; the perfect pre-Christmas treat. But with a child? Annie Ridout decided to find out…
If you’re visiting London in the lead up to Christmas, or pretending to be a tourist in your home city, a morning of museum visits and Christmas shopping should be rounded off by a decadent afternoon tea. And no one does this oh-so-British post lunch, pre dinner affair better than sketch.
My excuse? My sister’s impending nuptials. As a family, we like to celebrate any and everything so I booked for the bride-to-be, our mother, her fiancée’s mum and sister and my one-year-old daughter to indulge in an afternoon of champagne and scones.
And by god, was it worth it.
Entering from Conduit Street, just off Regent’s Street, the footman welcomes us into the converted Georgian town house with a sweep of the arm. We pass the Parlour, with its stripped wooden floorboards and antique armchairs, and head to the Gallery, in the basement.
Decked out with kitsch pink velvet shell-shaped armchairs and cushioned booths, the space was designed by architect and designer India Mahdavi, working in collaboration with chef Pierre Gagnaire and the artist David Shrigley.
Over 200 Shrigley sketches are mounted on the walls of the basement – the largest collection of originals ever exhibited – and he also had a hand in designing the crockery, cutlery and condiment pots – adding characteristically humorous messages.
He says: “Amongst other things I have created all the ceramic tableware for the restaurant. It will be the first artwork that I have made that can go in the dishwasher. It will be very clean artwork. Clean artwork is good artwork, in my opinion.”
The variety of teas are too vast to list but to name a few, favourites such as Earl Grey and Assam sit next to herbal infusions with whole rose buds and organic chamomile flowers. Or you can choose a champagne from the wine list.
The food, both savoury and sweet, is bottomless. This results in an eyes-bigger-than-stomach situation where we double up on everything and have to take doggy bags with us. The waiters who are otherwise delightful don’t seem too pleased about this request.
The cake tray is laden with mouth-wateringly tantalising finger foods: a deep-fried croque monsieur melts in the mouth, the cucumber sandwich on white bread with a dollop of caviar is delightfully delicate.
The freshly-baked scones smothered in clotted cream and strawberry jam nearly push me too far. But I plough on and taste the mini flump marshmallows. This is all washed down with a glass of champagne and plenty of tea.
But the highlight of our visit has to be the loos. A wide white staircase leads up to a room of retro-style pods, each housing a toilet. Above the sinks, in a communal hand-washing area, the mirrors are Alice in Wonderland-esque, distorting your image. For the full experience, bosh an acid tab before you head upstairs. Just joking. Kind of…
As for the child-friendly question, they warmly welcomed my one-year-old daughter, providing a high chair and whisking the bulky buggy off to be hidden behind the scenes. There were no scowls when she threw scone crumbs across the table or blew bubbles into her mineral water.
Afternoon tea: £39, or from £51 with a glass of champagne
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG; 0207 659 4500; www.sketch.london