Is London Calling You?
After finding ourselves in London last month (for the first time in more than a decade) on business, we decided to take a busman’s holiday and stay a few extra nights to check out some restaurants. Before we left NYC, we had already made reservations to sample the vegetarian tasting menu at Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant Sketch that had been on our radar. But once we were in London, we kept hearing from local food bloggers that we shouldn’t miss Duck & Waffle. (One even Tweeted us a photo of her meal there to help convince us!)
As fans of Mike Nesmith’s cult classic movie “Tapeheads” (starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins), we were already well aware of Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles in Los Angeles, so D&W’s name alone grabbed our attention – even if we’re only interested in eating the waffles. However, as one of the restaurant’s main selling points seemed to be its spectacular views of London from the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, we had a hard time believing that the food would be much better than at most tourist attractions. After skipping the signature dish, we were happily surprised that we truly loved the duck egg en cocotte with wild mushrooms, gruyere, truffle and soldiers (with props to our waiter, who wouldn’t leave our table until we’d ordered it), not to mention the organic Colombian eggs with toast and avocado.
Professional photography is technically not allowed in the restaurant (otherwise, customers would never have a view to enjoy with everyone standing around popping photos), but we did get special dispensation to take a shot of the other signature dish at Duck & Waffle (which we think Gael Greene might especially enjoy): “The Full Elvis: Belgian Waffle with PBJ, bananas brulee, Chantilly cream and all the trimmings,” which was so good we literally begged a passing waitress to take it away before we ate every last bite.
D&W never closes; it’s open 24/7, which makes it all the more amazing that they get so many details right while serving literally hundreds and hundreds of diners non-stop. The wait staff is present and engaging, with no I’ve-been-here-around-the-clock-glazed-eye looks, while the kitchen that is cooking gosh-knows-how-many-eggs served ours perfectly.
D&W is owned by the restaurant group behind Sushi Samba, and clearly has this concept nailed so well that we’re counting the days until they open in New York City (near Bryant Park). It may take some effort to get a reservation at this hotspot (Bloomberg’s Peter Elliot Tweeted us that it was on Bloomberg’s London must-visit list, too), and while the view alone is worth a visit, we promise you’ll be glad you arrived hungry.
Sketch Lecture Room & Library is Michelin three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant in London. Given the world-renowned vegetarian tasting menu at his Paris flagship restaurant, we did not want to miss out on the experience of the much-buzzed-about vegetarian tasting menu at his London outpost.
But where to begin to describe it? The gorgeously over-the-top room? The fascinating wine list? The amazing cuisine? The extraordinary service from a truly world-class restaurant staff? The fact that the table is yours for the night because Gagnaire does not believe in turning tables? The crazy egg-shaped pod bathrooms downstairs?
If Duck & Waffle is a catchy song-of-the-summer (think “Get Lucky”), Sketch is more “Bohemian Rhapsody” — but in a great way. Sometimes we want music that lifts us up out of our chairs to dance, while other times we just want to sit back, relax, and be taken on a great ride without worrying about our ears ringing afterward. A meal at Sketch simply unfolds with delights for all the senses, from the first visit of the Champagne cart through ethereal petits fours.
And btw, it took just a short time to find a nugget among the bubbles: a grower Champagne made by a vintner who supplies the very top houses of France that was brought over to London by our sommelier Frederic Brugues himself (who previously worked with Marco Pierre White). His magic hands led to our bottle lasting through our entire meal, a true sign of hospitality (by not overpouring and rushing us into the next bottle), for which we were grateful.
So much thought and care went into every detail at Sketch, and we were too busy soaking them up to take as careful notes as we’d have liked. But even a few subtle surprises like the service of two butters, one flavored with citrus rind, made an unforgettable impression. It was unusual but fantastic and refreshing and a total surprise on first bite. Nor have we ever put the words “burrata” and “ice cream” together before, but thank goodness Sketch’s kitchen did, because it proved a fantastic accompaniment to the Provencale Ratatouille. And six desserts? Seriously? Needless to say, our dinner ended with a grand finale indeed.
SKETCH LECTURE ROOM & LIBRARY
Vegetarian Tasting Menu
Provençale Ratatouille / Watercress Ice Cream / Burrata Ice Cream
Pan-fried Quartered Artichoke Hearts / Shallot Fondue with Green Curry
Black Olive Jelly / Tapenade and Fennel with Star Anise / Braised Baby Carrots
Creamy Leek Ravioli / Borlotti Beans / Sage / Red Wine
Lettuce Cream with Sorrel / Whole Poached Courgette / Green Beans /
Crunchy Feuillete with Roblochon / Baby Spinach with Parmesan
Peach Slices with Pistachio
Pierre Gagnaire’s Grand Dessert
A Combination of Six Desserts