When I left my previous law firm last summer, I was thoughtfully given some gift vouchers for vegan afternoon tea at London restaurant, Sketch. I hadn’t had the opportunity to use them until this year (23 March 2019), but, with my cousin visiting from Australia, I decided to book afternoon tea for my mum, sister, cousin and I. We were lucky to get a booking at relatively short notice; Sketch’s booking team managed to squeeze us in when I telephoned them. We had heard good things about Sketch and its kooky décor so we were all looking forward to it…
We found the restaurant on Conduit Street in Mayfair, London. I suspected I had spotted the venue from across the street as we approached as I saw a distinctive faceless dog statue mounted on the exterior, which I assumed was in keeping with what I’d heard about Sketch!
We were then seated in the Gallery which had a pink theme, a lot of modern art (of varying quality and taste (a fair number of pieces revolved around poo)!) and a huge domed roof.
We were then presented with the vegan menu and tea menus and were advised to start with a light tea. We were recommended the Li Shan oolong tea and I started with this. The tea was described as a hybrid between a white and a green tea and certainly lived up to the recommendation. It was delicious and I had two pots during the course of the afternoon. The crockery used at Sketch is quirky and has interesting mantras written on it and was a nice little unique feature.
Our afternoon tea kicked off food-wise with Cauliflower caviar. This was served to us by a man in a bright pink suit and white Panama hat describing himself as ‘Gus the Cauliflower Caviar Man’. He was full of enthusiasm when serving the dish. The dish was nicely presented and we were intrigued to try it given that we’d not tried anything like this before. Sadly, however, the dish was quite lacklustre. The cauliflower caviar itself didn’t particularly taste of anything and the truffled vegan egg had a burnt garlic taste which was too strong for me.
We then had a short break before the next course and I tried a pot of the Japanese Sencha tea. It was a lovely light green tea and was a nice palate cleanser. We were then presented with the main cake stand which served the finger sandwiches and petits gateaux. Of the finger sandwiches, the sweet potato, spinach and mushroom samosas were the stand out item; they had a crispy outer and a delicious filling. However, the chickpea blini was quite dry and the cucumber and margarine sandwich was bland and served on a dark rye bread which was too heavy for the light filling. The vegan coronation sandwich was also a little underwhelming and had a chutney gel piped onto the top of the sandwich which made it quite difficult to eat and had a slightly unpleasant gelatinous texture.
The petits gateaux looked impressive but on the whole were not the best cakes I have ever eaten. There was too much focus on chocolate and I am not a huge fan of fruit and chocolate together, which was a combination a number of these items used. The cakes were quite sickly because of the overwhelming chocolate focus. I was glad that I had saved the exotic fruit and coconut tapioca pot until the end as this was by far my favourite of the selection and was a nice palate cleanser after a lot of chocolate.
We then had another break before the scones and I sampled the Imperial Pinhead Gunpowder green tea. This was very pleasant too, a little stronger in flavour than the Japanese Sencha. We were also encouraged by our waiter to visit the loos – the loos are a point of pride for Sketch as they are famous for having individual ‘egg’ toilet cubicles. The loos for the Gallery also had a rather impressive rainbow patterned ceiling.
After this slight break and some time spent taking photos (and trying out boomerangs on Instagram), we then moved on to the scone round. We were very disappointed here. The scones had a dense cake consistency and did not resemble a scone as we know it. We were also disappointed that the scones were served without vegan cream of any sort. We have sampled other vegan afternoon teas elsewhere in London and were served vegan coconut cream with our scones and these were the star of the afternoon tea. Not so here. My mum and I make some lovely vegan scones (a recipe will follow), and so we were disappointed to receive something that in no way resembled a scone. We felt like it was an attempt to provide a comparable vegan menu but that less thought and effort had gone into the vegan offering versus their ‘regular’ menu.
After the vegan scone gate, I tried a matcha tea. I usually love matcha tea (and oat milk matcha lattes) but this was extremely strong with an overly gritty consistency. It was too strong to finish and I needed a glass of water to get rid of the gritty after taste.
We were finally told that we would be served Victoria sponge from a trolley. We were all too full to eat this and Sketch offered to box this up for us. We carried these around London for the rest of the afternoon and only looked in our boxes once we got home. When we did this, we realised we hadn’t been given Victoria sponge at all but another small chocolate and fruit cake. I looked back at the vegan menu and sure enough it did say we would get a Pabana cake and not a Victoria sponge, but we had been told we would get a Victoria sponge and we were looking forward to this. We were very disappointed not to get Victoria sponge (which is very easy to veganise) and also disappointed to receive another chocolate and fruit cake. My dad lucked out here as we gave the cakes to him!
Overall, this was not the best vegan afternoon tea I’ve been to and, in fact, a lot of the dishes we had I know my wonderfully talented mother could have done a better job with! It was a nice afternoon and good to spend time with my family. However, at £59 per person for afternoon tea (I was glad I had my gift card!), I thought it was very overpriced for what you got. The selection of teas was lovely and there were a couple of standout individual items (the samosa and the tapioca) but not enough to justify the price tag. It was a nice experience to have had and I enjoyed the quirky décor, but the vegan food was not as good as I’ve had elsewhere and I would not rush back.