If the best bit about the restaurant are the loos; then surely the restaurant must be awful? Normally, I would agree with this principle, but that was before I embarked upon a voyage last week to Oxford Circus, to 9 Conduit Street and to a lunch date at Sketch.
With a snowy slush leaking from the sky and a bitterly cold wind causing a break-out of goosebumps, it was with a sigh of relief that I entered the warm hall-way of this establishment and found my companion waiting in the Parlour. We had opted for this territory to dine in as our finances didn’t quite entertain a dalliance with the two Michelin star restaurant that rests at the back of the building (The Lecture Room), where one course can set you back as much as £55.
The Parlour came with a rather less extravagantly priced menu, with the most expensive main coming in at a more modest £19. With the weather outside giving no signs of letting up, we decided to stage a sit-in – and to have a long lunch. Three courses long. The setting made this decision all the more easy – velvet sofas, arty lamps, colourful contemporary artwork and antique tables surround you in an Alice in Wonderland-esque design.
Sadly, this decision was made progressively less easy due to the brash, stand-offish and pretentious waitresses. Specifically the bra-less, shaved head, front of house female, who constantly looked as if she’d just trodden in dog excrement. Yes, I’m in my 20s, yes I was wearing Topshop, not vintage, but that doesn’t entitle you to treat me like you’d rather I wasn’t there, Alright?
“Excuse me,” she drawled and pointed to our table, “this is a table for four people not two, can you move.” This, I accept, would have been a fair point – if, if the place was busy. As it was, there were four, I repeat four other diners – and it was 1.30 p.m.
If she had been more becoming then I wouldn’t have had an issue with her request, but she hadn’t, so I did. I told her that we would when it filled up. She stalked off.
A waitress came over, and was slightly less rude, please don’t misinterpret me to mean polite, oh no, she wasn’t polite, but she wasn’t, like her predecessor, unbearable. We ordered. My companion went for the Haddock Soufflé (Twice baked haddock soufflé, crunchy white cabbage salad), followed by the Beef tartare (Beef fillet with mustard, spring onion, capers, egg mollet, potato “fondant”) and I decided upon the – surprise, surprise – Foie Gras (Foie gras terrine, girolles in vinegar, cranberry chutney, quince paste and pistachio), followed by the Burger (Beef burger, sketchup sauce, red cabbage and Xeres jelly).
A different waitress returned, with the wrong dishes. She left. Another waitress approached with the right dishes, hurrah! At this point of proceedings, I had made up my mind that I didn’t like the place, I didn’t like it one bit. But then, then I tried my foie gras, followed by a bite of the souffle – and all my anger subsided as I was lifted onto a foody cloud of ecstasy. Wow, it was good – especially the Haddock (no foie gras terrine, pate or mousse can stand a chance to overly impress me after Balthazar).
Next came the mains (served correctly first time). The presentation of both dishes were carefully crafted by what can only be attributed to a true artists’ eye. What’s more, it too, was delectable. The beef tartare was soft, rich and seasoned with just the right amount of horseradish – so that it gave a kick, but didn’t render you a weeping wreck. It was also accompanied by a small tumbler of Bloody Mary – a thumb’s up here for attention to detail.
My burger – its bap was crisp and the meat medium rare (as I’d requested), and among its garnishes was a particularly tasty spinach mayonnaise. It also wasn’t too large; no Big Mac-esque montrosity – you know the ones that soared to popularity last year (2012 seemed the year for grease) – the ones that had your gut trailing on the floor by the time you left the restaurant – those ones.
I licked the plate clean, and polished off the Bloody Mary, before heading to the loo. Now, the loo isn’t normally a staple to my reviews. But these, well these weren’t ordinary loos. Oh no, these loos were extraordinary – the loos I imagine that, if Lady Gaga went into the Water Closet industry, would design. They were individual eggs! About 8ft tall and peppered around a massive white-washed room, I had to take a double take – was my drink spiked with LSD? They were bizarre, beautiful and uber, uber cool. I don’t think I’ve ever come back from the bathroom with a bigger grin on my face!
The Eggs (loos)
And a close up…
In conclusion, though it frustrates me to say it, the food at Sketch is very good; very good indeed. But with two Michelin stars, the chefs aren’t going to be bad, are they? The point is, if the service had matched the quality of food, I would have given this restaurant my highest recommendation. As it is, there are other places that serve just as good a quality of food, but without the snooty staff. The only reason I do suggest going, is to check out the loos – they are awesome.
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