The Foodist: Sketch's 15th anniversary marks a true London restaurant success story
As Sketch celebrates 15 years of service, it's easy to forget that this Michelin-starred London institution was once written off
Some dinners are memorable not just for the food served, but the sense of occasion that comes with them. That was definitely the case at Sketch's 15th anniversary dinner, hosted by its eccentric, passionate owner Mourad Mazouz. While events like this are usually attended mostly by journalists, here were Pierre and Claire Koffmann, Chris Galvin and his son Emile, and a host of top chefs from some of the best kitchens in the capital. I was among London food royalty.
For those who don't know Sketch, it's a Michelin-starred restaurant on Conduit Street decked out in floor-to-ceiling bling; where afternoon tea costs £80; where there's sharp-edged modern art as far as the eye can see; where there's an all-pink dining room; where even the toilets – fleshy-looking pods that play music to you while you're using them – are revered (and not just on Instagram).
It's probable that this aesthetic and attitude were much of the reason for the criticism it bore when it was launched. None of it feels like a place in which 'serious food people' would feel at home, return to again and again, and tell starry-eyed stories about.
But it's clear there's a kind of magnetism about Sketch. At the dinner, the effervescent Mazouz, executive chef Pierre Gagnaire and chief executive Sinead Mallozzi recounted starkly how many millions the hugely expensive restaurant was losing in the first couple of years; how bad the reviews got; how people just didn't seem to 'get it'; and then how a review from the late AA Gill seemed to turn it all around in an instant.
Sketch remains a restaurant that's not for everyone – and nor does it try to be. But it's somewhere that's so fondly thought of by diners and industry luminaries alike for exactly that reason. 15 years in Mayfair is a huge achievement, and Sketch has done it not by bending to criticism or trends, but by setting out its stall even in the face of sharp criticism, serving great food and wine, and by bringing its owners' and operators' sense of hospitality and eccentricity into every detail. Yes, including those toilets...
Sketch's 15th anniversary Prestige Menu is available until 22 June; sketch.london