LSA Loves is a weekly column where our editorial team raves about something they love. From skincare to a dish or a Netflix series, this is a look into what gets us ticking.
It could be my 1,000th visit to London and I’d still be excited.
It’s more than the opulent labyrinth that is Harrods, and the fact that I can finally buy crumpets that do not crumble at a single touch. It’s the people and the mix of old-world and modern architecture. It’s the gloominess which shrouds the city in a melancholic filter and the palpable excitement when the sun finds its way between the clouds, even if only for a few minutes. It’s the way its restaurants and bars have found a way to be more than just a place for eating and drinking. One such place is Sketch.
Those who are savvy to the streets of London would’ve heard of or been to Sketch, and then proceed to point out that there are better restaurants and bars in the city. That’s factually true because London is also home to the Connaught Bar, The Savoy’s American Bar, and Lyle’s — all establishments which have made the World’s 50 Best lists.
And although I’ve made it a personal mission in my career to avoid writing about food and drinks at all costs, I found myself pitching an ode to Sketch as my first entry in our very heartfelt column before I could stop myself.
Those who haven’t been would’ve surely spotted its Pepto Bismol-pink interiors on Instagram or travel guides. Located just off the very chaotic Regent Street on Conduit Street, this 18th-century townhouse is an eclectic three-storey clash of styles in all the right ways.
Most importantly, it’s a one-stop shop for those who want to steep and revel in the best of London’s creativity, so the fact that it’s had to strike a pause on operations due to the current pandemic is all the more sobering.
Founded in 2003 by Algerian restauranteur Mourad Mazouz (or ‘Momo”, to friends), the institution is an envelope-pushing concept that comprises of a Michelin-starred restaurant, a woodland cocktail bar, an arty tea room, another spaceship-like bar, and a Louis XV-styled patisserie — all within the same premises. As its website points out rather succinctly, it’s “the Mayfair restaurant you need to visit if you’re feeling Quite Fancy,” and feeling fancy is really quite the biggest indulgence you could allow yourself when you’re on the same soil as the Queen.
You see, Singapore has cemented its status as a culinary haven but I usually find the overall experience to stop slightly short of being awe-inspiring. Call me superficial, but I’ve always felt that a restaurant or bar’s interiors are just as important a factor as its food. I like to be constantly wooed by details; it could be an asymmetrical plate or a button on the waiter’s uniform, I don’t care, just indulge me with something, anything.
For me, stepping into Sketch is like being on creative crack. Its flagship restaurant, The Gallery, is a pastel lover’s dream, and despite being blush pink everywhere, manages to evoke a pleasant Wes Anderson-ey feeling of quirkiness instead of being gag-inducing.
The vast walls that surround it used to be enveloped by a moving projection of the city. Today, it’s jacketed by acclaimed artist David Shrigley’s art, whose seemingly amateur style of doodling somehow manages to not only fit right in but add to the atmosphere. The ceramic tableware is also original Shrigley merchandise, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not want to pocket the salt & pepper shakers that are marked by ‘Dust’ and ‘Dirt’. The stairs are dripping with paint and some of the chairs are wearing ballet shoes.
Come by during afternoon tea and you’ll spot The Caviar Man making his rounds in his tailored pink suit. By night, the convivial bubbly-sippers are replaced by a buzzier, more sophisticated crowd. The menu by three Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire includes generously portioned starters like wild Argentinian red king prawns with manzanilla, while mains include the wild option of having a whole smoked Challans duck with its breast cooked in a marmalade of red cabbage and apple.
I’ve laughed and had arguments with my better half at The Gallery. We’ve spent hours discussing the weird art on the wall and then the equally strange people who dined and drank amongst us. We’ve battled jet lag at the adjacent futuristic East Bar with its sunken bar and Faber-Castell-lined counter, and spent a less than acceptable amount of time in the bathroom right upstairs marvelling at the pod-like alien loos.
And so Sketch is everything I wish the world was more like — unapologetically bold and weird. When it reopens, it’ll be one of the first few places the people in London will have the good fortune of flocking back to. After all, if it’s an escape from reality you need — more so after a few months of social distancing and isolation — there’s no better place than there.