This feature has been updated to include a review of Sketch’s new caviar afternoon tea (see below)
Classic afternoon tea at Sketch
Giant fluffy scones in a pink velvet room with cartoon-lined walls, anyone? If you’re game, the famed David Shrigley gallery at sketch on Conduit Street offers an elegant afternoon tea with a difference.
An unimposing door in Mayfair opens into the reading rooms – take a right and you will find yourself in a pink velvet room with black and white David Shrigley sketches on the walls (cover your eyes if you are easily offended!). Not the typical backdrop to enjoying your tea and scones, but perfect for a special occasion with the girls.
The fresh and elegant Pommery Brut Silver champagne with creamy notes started the afternoon tea as it meant to go on. We loved the show–stopping cake stand packed with little cakes, pastries, sweets and mini sandwiches of all varieties.
A tiny cheese toastie delicately wrapped up in a paper parcel, oozing with comté cheese… pure indulgence. We also really enjoyed the mini apple tart with buttery flaky pastry and spiced apple centre, and the raspberry flumps were surprisingly delicious – they added a bit of fun to an otherwise traditional afternoon tea cake stand.
Huge scones served warm were light and fluffy, just the way they should be. They were served alongside homemade strawberry jam and the very popular French fig jam, which gave this course an edge. The tea selection was excellent with chai, fruit and vanilla teas.
We opted for the latter, which was served, as was the rest of the afternoon tea, in slightly wonky and chunky china littered with tongue in cheek words and phrases. Once I got the bottom of my tea, the teacup kindly told me to ‘forget about it’, the sugar politely suggested that ‘it’s not ok’, and our plates gave us a street map of the area. Peculiar, but perfectly fitting for this just-the-right-side-of-bizarre afternoon experience.
Star of the show: mini cheese toastie
Scone rating: 8/10
Perfect for: a special occasion with the girls
Price: £59 for classic afternoon tea; £73 for champagne afternoon tea; £35 for children’s afternoon tea
Written by Alex Crossley
- Classic scone recipe
- Traditional Vicky sponge
- Rhubarb shortcakes
- Chocolate éclairs
- Cherry bakewell tart
Caviar afternoon tea at Sketch
Aside from the other-worldly surroundings, the highlight of afternoon tea at Sketch has to be the tea itself. Waitresses scoot golden tea trollies around the room, each one stacked with glass jars of aromatic loose leaf teas – there are at least 40 to pick from, including whole rosebud, matcha, white peony and Taiwan red jade. Feel free to sniff before you choose, and refills are complimentary.
Sketch’s new caviar afternoon tea begins, as expected, with a spoon of rich, creamy Oscietra caviar (from Russian sturgeon) – vegetarians get little pearls of cold cauliflower as a clever substitute. Even more enjoyable was the accompanying take on boiled egg and soldiers: a 63 degrees egg yolk nestled inside a deeply flavoursome ‘egg white’ made from comté cheese mornay. Utterly indulgent, and one of the most exciting, innovative ways to kick off an afternoon tea that we’ve ever seen.
Three tiers of finger sandwiches, scones and pretty gateaux came out together (we’d have preferred a staggered approach, so that scones were warm and cream cakes cold when we ate them), and the highlight of the savouries was a pumpernickel sandwich topped with tomato chutney, a thin strip of daikon and homemade tomato mayonnaise. Corn-fed coronation chicken was a close second, with its elegant decoration of pickled red onion and baby coriander.
Square scones – made that way to eliminate wastage from cutouts – had the right texture and were delicious with organic fig jam and clotted cream. A decadent yet dainty chocolate and caramel gateau was our favourite top tier treat, made with what tasted like thin layers of feuilletine. But the lemon and strawberry Battenberg, though well flavoured and beautifully bright, confused us a little with its outside layer of fondant icing (what’s a Battenberg without marzipan?).
Unlike most afternoon teas, at Sketch the eating doesn’t end when they take your tiered stand away… there’s also a slice of something sweet from the cake trolley to attempt. Our options were a light, well-baked Victoria sponge or banana loaf (check out our best banana cake recipes here), infused with layers of fudge – delightful for breakfast or elevenses, but (for us at least) probably too heavy to end an already-generous afternoon tea on. Our advice? Ask for it to-go!
Written by Charlotte Morgan, May 2017
Got you in the mood for afternoon tea? Here’s our round up of the best afternoon teas in London.
olive magazine podcast ep65 – Who will win the great scone debate? Jam or cream first?!
On this week’s podcast the team explore the British tradition of afternoon tea, sharing their favourites in London, and get into a debate on which is the right way to serve scones. (Psst, cream is the right way.)