The English half of me has always had an inherent need for tea, but since moving to England, this has turned into a fully-fledged obsession. Whenever I have a spare afternoon, the mean reds (in the words of Holly Golightly), want to catch up with a girlfriend or just need a moment of peaceful decadence, I am usually to be found having afternoon tea all over London. I don’t know what it is, but a proper cup of tea and some pretty little cakes seem to me like pure luxury when served on floral china in a chintzy, gilded room. And after two years of hunting down the best establishments in all of London, Sketch is one of my firm favourites.
Though it’s incognito from the outside – you’ll be able to spot it from the big headless dog statue perched above the entrance – once you step inside the Parlour, it feels like Alice’s mad tea party meets a Victorian English eccentric’s over-stuffed sitting room meets Mayfair aristocrat (kind of a perfect mash-up, in my opinion). I love either perching right beside the window (for Conduit Street people watching) or, on a rainy day, happily hiding as far in the back as possible, settling in with a newspaper and a pot of tea beneath the big, illuminated stag heads.
The tea selection is extensive (I love the Jing Chai), but it’s the little cakes and pastries where they really excel – each one is like a little work of patisserie art, gorgeous enough to make Marie Antoinette herself squeel with glee. I’m enamoured with the Cardinal – a beautifully constructed oversized blackberry macaron with violet creme, crystalised violet petals and blackcurrant jelly.
Also, and I do not make this statement lightly, their macarons are some of the best I have ever had. For quality, they are certainly up there with Laduree and Pierre Herme, but their flavours (though they only ever have a few at a time) are wonderfully original – last time I had early grey tea and lemongrass (my tastebuds were simultaneously shocked and dancing with excitement).
Finally, you simply cannot leave the establishment without a trip to the toilets. Though this may seem a strange dictate to make, I’m quite certain that Sketch boasts the best toilets in all of London. To find them, head down the hallway, through the heavy doors (with golden ladies’ legs for doorknobs), and through the art gallery (which may be completely dark, but for a moving art installation on one wall). There, you’ll come to a ghostly white staircase where, at the top, sits a forest of giant glowing pods (each one is a toilet) watched by uniformed French maids. If ever going to loo could be a cultural experience, then this is surely it.
Do you have a favourite place for afternoon tea? And would you like to see this turn into a regular feature?
Love, Miss B xx
The Parlour at Sketch - 9 Conduit St, London W1S 2XG