Cast your mind back to the festive season. A time of the year when it’s nice to do something a little bit special, to cheer up those cold short dark days. On Sunday 3rd December 2017 the Brunch Club festive edition kicked off in the rather beautiful setting of Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG. Describing itself as a “destination place, for food, art and music”, Sketch seemed like the perfect fairy tale location for a fancy brunch outing. However, as we were told we could only have the table for 1.5 hours (we usually take at least 2.5 hours over our brunches!), we decided to move to a second location nearby for our traditional ‘brunch pudding’. That blog post will follow tomorrow.
Lori: I ordered a latte, as usual. Sketch offer a wide variety of ‘milk’ options, so I went for hazelnut milk. It arrived in a double-walled glass cup and was absolutely delicious. Best part was that the cup and the layer of foam on the top kept my coffee warm so I could finish it after my food.
Ed: I had the Earl Grey as there was no English Breakfast option (Assam is *not* the same!) it was alright and the cups were pleasant enough.
Eleanor: I had a latte, which is the new winner of ‘Most Expensive Cup Of Coffee” and in all honesty, it wasn’t great. I loved the glass it came in but there was nothing special about it and it was very overpriced!
Lou: I ordered the Earl Grey which was a Jing teabag – the tea was ok, but served in small glass pots which cooled quickly. That said, the ‘milk churns’ were a nice touch.
WHAT WE HAD
Lori: I pondered egg but, in the end, couldn’t resist the lure of the black pudding and pork belly with melted onion and apples. It was a main plate, but I wasn’t sure how filling it’d be, so I went with a side of sourdough toast and preserves. The dish was delicious, with a very rich gravy, and the toast with jam/marmalade made an excellent ‘fake brunch pudding’ afterwards. Sadly, the staff didn’t tell me what the preserves were, so we had to guess!
Ed: Well, I had an aubergine ciabatta with tofu. There was only one veggie egg option and it didn’t inspire confidence, so went for this. I did not realise what I was ordering was really more of a starter, I was given a vastly empty plate with four small slices of ciabatta stacked with aubergine and cubes of plain tofu. It was pleasant enough but I should have also ordered a side to go with it.
Eleanor: I had the Sketch eggs with avocado and sketchup (which was surprisingly not vegetarian – we think the sketchup had worcestershire sauce). The eggs were deep fried and really tasty with the avocado and sketchup but there wasn’t much to it. I had a juice which came in an excellent carton shaped glass but again, expensive. I had a new bugbear about drinks being so expensive…
Lou: I went for the eggs with Mortedello, a cured meat with pistachio. The eggs were served deep fried in batter which had a pleasant tang with a side of ricotta, and I ordered a side of portobello mushroom. I didn’t realise the dish came with bread, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.
WHAT DID WE CHAT ABOUT?
Lori: Ed’s amazing Christmas jumper, places to go in Greenwich to take photos, the ragtime pianist behind the curtain next to us… who we discovered later was non-existent as it was a pink perspex neon-lit piano artwork that was playing itself!
Ed: The decor, everyone’s wonderfully festive outfits!
Eleanor: The incredible decor! Knitwear.
Lou: I regaled the group with the Steps concert the previous week, which was sooo good!
SERVICE, ATMOSPHERE, TOILET STANDARDS/QUIRKS
Lori: Sketch has beautiful interiors that make it well worth a visit, so we were all excited about this one. We were sat in The Glade, which is a beautiful woodland themed room with large comfy chairs (although perhaps a little low for eating), and a lovely atmosphere. Sadly though, the service was severely lacking! Ed and I arrived after Eleanor and Lou had already got drinks, but we were not asked for our drinks order for about fifteen minutes, despite the time limit on the table. It took a while to get the attention of the staff (even though we were sitting right next to the bar and till!), some of my crockery was cleared while I was still eating, and the rest was left until way afterwards. The manager who took our payments used contactless without showing me the amount and then seemed surprised when I asked for a receipt. Thankfully, a visit to the snowy forest toilets meant I left the building a little cheerier than I might otherwise have done.
Ed: I was pretty unimpressed with all our interactions with the staff that we had. The best member of staff was the player piano, who really warmed up after some initial musical missteps. The place feels like a nightclub and seems to have a focus on being instagram-able, which it definitely is, but actually being there, I felt uncomfortable and ill at ease.The toilets were definitely a highlight, but we were there for brunch, not to go to the loo!
Eleanor: When we walked in I was impressed, it looked gorgeous and Lou & I were welcomed by very friendly staff who quickly showed us to our seat. And it went downhill from there – the staff were very slow to respond to us and it felt quite empty. A lot of decor but empty of much life.
Lou: The atmosphere of Sketch is trendy, but it suffers from being a place to look at rather than experience. As Lori pointed out we were practically ignored (even though we were sat by where the staff congregated at the till), and even though our original waitress was professional and apologetic for the delay, the various other service staff seemed to rush us without actually giving good service. That said, the attendant at the cloakroom was incredibly helpful, and the toilets are always worth a visit!
Lori: As we only had 1.5hrs at Sketch, we had already decided to go elsewhere for ‘brunch pudding’. Part two to follow in a second blog post.
Ed: Nice little wander on our way to Brunch part two…!
Eleanor: More brunch!
Lou: Wandering through a busy Carnaby to our pudding spot was sweet – the Carnaby Christmas lights were lovely!
Lori: Sketch is beautiful and should have felt really special, but the level of service left me feeling like they just didn’t want us there. Having been to some very ‘fancy’ brunch venues where we were made to feel like A-list celebs, or even much-loved friends, this was a massive let-down for me. The food was tasty but didn’t feel like good value for money, so I’d recommend going for early evening cocktails here and then a meal elsewhere.
Ed: I was amazed in turn by the ridiculous decor and also the bad atmosphere. The staff made me feel like an imposition from beginning to end. I thought it was unacceptable that Lori and I were sat there for so long without being asked for a drink order, when we were right in front of where the waiting staff congregated. The curse of being this sort of place seems to be, people will come no matter what, doesn’t really matter how bad the service is or how expensive (and underwhelming) the food, it’s success is secure, so they don’t have to work at good customer service. Not a good brunch spot at all.
Eleanor: As the other have said, it was quite disappointing. The food menu was very oddly split and there wasn’t much that appeal. The coffee was hugely overpriced and underwhelming. The staff clearly had an issue to deal with but we were ignored. The whole experience was a shame. The toilets were fun but not enough reason to visit.
Lou: I have been to Sketch on a couple of other occasions and enjoyed it immensely, but the service on this occasion left a bad taste in the mouth, I honestly couldn’t recommend it for brunch, but I harbour a hope that afternoon tea may be better.
The image of The Glade at Sketch at the top of this post is from the Sketch website. All other images were snapped by Brunch Club members on their phones, so excuse any blurriness as we were all rather excited about eating the food.