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The Glade at Sketch, London W1

Experience creative gastronomy in Mayfair!

Pierre Gagnaire, whose restaurant at 6, Rue Balzac is one of  the most famous in the Paris constellation, opened what could be described as a gastronomic institution here in London. It's called Sketch because it's always subject to change and development, the latest of which is the restaurant within a restaurant that's called the Glade. Gagnaire's partner in this venture is the style guru Mourad Mazouz, who has been responsible for recreating this fine Mayfair town house into a multi-faceted style encounter. Much has been written, even about the loos,  and in terms of decorative art, "no surface has been left unconsidered".

The food at Sketch's main restaurant  has provoked both plaudits and outrage. Plaudits from those who appreciate the skill and imagination applied to both seasonal and exotic ingredients, outrage that starters can cost as much as £52, and that dishes can be bewilderingly complicated.  Much of Gagnaire's style is based on the marriage of contrasting ways of preparing the central ingredient of the dish, so we have Lobster 'addressed in three  ways', or langoustines and scallops in four ways - a tartare of langoustine, a mousselline of scallops infused with lemongrass, then roasted with spices and finally, poached with seaweed mayonnaise. As you can imagine, such dishes are also visually stunning. 

The Glade operates as a private club in the evening, but ordinary punters like us can go there for lunch, at The Glade. Chef Anthony Garlando offers an interesting and varied menu at lunchtime with more modest prices, ranging from starters from £6 to main dishes in the mid to late teens. In fact, there is no distinction made between starters and main courses,. Instead, the list is divided into sections based on the principal ingredients of eggs, fish, vegetables, chicken, beef, cheese and dessert. Certain items are starred to indicate their suitability as starters.

We began with "sirloin of beef poached in butter then roasted with cloves and coriander, white beans, shisho salad and caramelised beans". This is a starter. It comes served cold, as a layered millefeuille with slices of beef alternating with mooli and cucumber pickled in a mild sweet vinegar. Alongside were two little 'cakes', one made with caramelised sardines, the other a puree of white beans coated in variegated seeds. It was a kaleidoscope of flavours in which the beef was really the junior partner. Really triumphant was the more coherent but no less complicated cuttle fish and Welsh mussels, whose flavour remained central, but enhanced by a delicious hake cream cut by the brisker flavours of fresh apple and beetroot.

For her main course my guest chose "Hommage a M.L.Ambadassadeur, 33 Faubourg St Honore". I believe this was a dish made possibly by Carème (the father of modern French gastronomy) in honour of a former ambassador. The British Embassy is at number 35, and number 33 was owned by one of the Rothschilds, it's now the headquarters of the Cercle de l'Union Interalliée. The dish is basically a rice pilaff in which you discover many different hits of flavour - from crunchy salmon roe to peas, various nuts and the lush yolk of a fried duck egg that you break into with greedy relish.

I had the pan fried skate, nicely caramelised, with garnishes that included capers, green papaya butter, almonds and liquorice. We also tried the onion tartlet, whose deeply caramelised shallots and crispy pastry made a very substantial side dish, but would be a nice lunch dish in its own right.

For our pudding we shared le dessert des petits gateaux, a snip at £3.50, beautifully presented, with variations on a chocolate theme. Wines are available by the glass, and bottles start from only £12.00. 

If you want a smart lunch, be waited on by very charming staff, and not break your wallet, then the Glade is well worth a try. Click here for our guide to all the different bars and restaurants within Sketch.

Clifford Mould, November 2005

The Glade, Sketch 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair W1
T 0870 777 4488  W

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