Afternoon tea in London? DONE. Checked off my bucket list.
The issue I have with afternoon tea is that the vast majority of hotels and restaurants offer a variation of it; one really doesn’t have to go above and beyond to find one. However, the sad reality is that a very lucky few are something to write home about – tasteless scones, lukewarm tea, and unnecessarily heavy clotted cream are unfortunately a common fixture in a city where most tourists won’t even notice the difference between day-old and fresh-out-of-the-oven pâtisseries.
But not at sketch. You truly haven’t had a proper afternoon tea in London until you’ve sat down in sketch’s legendary monochromatic blush-coloured Gallery.
Afternoon tea in London
The historic building in which sketch is housed was built in 1779 as the Royal Institute of British Architects; it later on became the London Atelier of famed haute-couture brand Christian Dior. With that in mind, it only seems fitting that sketch would not only celebrate but pursue the experimental, artsy heritage with its incredibly forward-thinking restaurants.
Well before my taste buds got excited by the sweet smorgasbord ahead of me, my camera and my hands got a life of their own and snapped every corner of this spectacular David Shrigley-designed room, which is complemented by the adjoining toilet pods (yes, I swear you read that right) and the exotic Glade room.
The attention to details – where the devil truly hides as far as interior design is concerned – is astounding. Everything, from the muted pink hue to the antiquey-looking champagne glasses, and from the cheeky works of art adorning the walls to Shrigley’s witty tableware, is impeccably assorted.
Was I impressed? Absolutely. It’s been just over a month since my visit and I am *still* talking about those finger sandwiches. I speak from experience when I say this: when cucumber sandwiches – one of the blandest possible dish ever imagined – are memorably fresh, crispy, and savoury, you know it’s bound to be a legendary afternoon tea.
What followed was an explosion of flavours complemented by my and my friend Julie‘s entire lexical field of the word “yummy”. Hands up if you’ve got a sweet tooth that can handle more than the top button of your jeans ever will allow. I know I do!
- Assorted finger sandwiches: corn-fed coronation chicken, smoked salmon and Jacob’s tarragon cream, green asparagus and cucumber ricotta, mozzarella and pesto panini, as well as mayonnaise, egg, quail egg and caviar
- Sultana scones with fig & strawberry jam
- The two-bites pastries: guariguette strawberry tartlet, Battenberg cake, opera, rhubarb cheesecake, Malabar marshmallow, Kalamansi meringue, as well as violet and raspberry choux
- And, to conclude, a full-sized sketch pastry: salted caramel chocolate fondant or caramelised scented cardamom pears and Tahiti vanilla dome
Yeah. I wasn’t lying. YUM.
Afternoon tea at sketch – is it worth the price?
At £45 per head, this afternoon of festivities doesn’t come cheap. Indeed, sketch is one of the priciest afternoon teas in London, especially if you #treatyoself to champagne (£57). But if you couldn’t already tell by my dithyrambic review of the menu and space, I think the experience is entirely worth it – because that’s exactly what it is: an experience.
This afternoon tea isn’t just about scones and herbal beverages. It’s about being immersed in a completely cohesive ensemble, from the über-feminine decor to the quirky tableware, from the out-of-this-world pastries to the impossibly photogenic displays. Even the washrooms are worth the detour.
I’m certain afternoon tea at Claridge’s or the Lanesborough’s is really quite enjoyable in a quintessentially English sort of way. However I would wholeheartedly recommend going at sketch for a truly unforgettable, distinguished, one-of-a-kind experience for all senses.
Tips for afternoon tea at sketch
- There is no official dress code for afternoon tea but you definitely want to put your most fashionable dress on. Although the staff was oh so kind to me, I was impossibly underdressed with my street-London-friendly-but-not-afternoon-tea-ready denim on denim outfit.
- sketch has four other rooms, each with a distinctive menu, dress code, atmosphere, and decor.
- If you want to get the best possible photos of the Gallery, book your afternoon tea right at the opening. Be there a tad early while the room is virtually empty; it gets quite full by 1pm.
- Afternoon tea is available every day of the week 12:30pm – 4:30pm.