sketch Parlour – London’s Cheekiest Take on the Venerable Institution of High Tea

Anyone with even a passing acquaintance of British tradition knows that tea is a fundamental aspect. Centuries of tradition have evolved into veritable rituals around consuming a cuppa.

How refreshing that sketch Parlour has undertaken a delightful revision of the tradition, combining both respect and cheeky innovation.

Located just off the trendy shopping mecca of Regent Street, near the swank areas of Saville Row and Berkeley Square, sketch Parlour is the ideal place to see the successful collision of modern design within the context of thoughtful hospitality.

David Shrigley (Turner prize nominee) has transformed the Gallery at sketch as part of a long-term programme of artist-conceived restaurants. Open for afternoon tea and dinner, the project follows the huge success of artist Martin Creed’s restaurant commission at sketch in 2012. 239 new works of Shrigley’s line the restaurant’s walls, forming the largest group of his originals ever exhibited.

The tea room is almost shockingly pink, from the walls to the leatherette settees. Bustling about are team members in uniform, while a string trio plays modern classics in a corner.

We were provided a menu, with nearly a dozen tea choices. Each was described with the type of vernacular we are now accustomed to seeing with wines and craft beers. We opted for lychee red and organic bohea lapsang.

We also opted for the champagne, one each of Pommery Brut Silver and Pommery Brut Rosé. Both were crisp and delightful.

Soon Matt the Caviar Man arrived, crisply attired in his well-cut pink suit and dapper straw Fedora. He offered us some fish eggs that were as obscure as they were tasteful.

Matt, the Caviar Man proffers his tasty wares. I almost expected a choir to break out in the chorus of “I Am The Walrus, I am the Egg Man, Goo goo g’joob.”

By now we were in the pleasant land of sensory overload.

Soon the food arrived, on a traditional stacked tray. Although small, each finger sandwich was far more tasteful and filling than the usual fare.

The sweets toward the top of the tray were excellent, we had our fill of cakes and macaroons. The next two new flavors of tea were equally tasty (Nilgiri frost and whole chamomile flowers).

Having been settled in for nearly an hour, we were now in the enviable position of watching new arrivals, mouths as agape as ours had been. But with all the liquid consumed, nature called and I made my way to the loo. I should have expected this would be no ordinary loo. No, after being pointed to the gents and being told to stay to the left through the doors in the far corner, I looked at a pair of sweeping white stairways, leading up to a bright white room of egg pods. A pair of French maids kept the large room sparkling clean, and inside one of the eggs I was able to take care of business.

My mistake was trying to explain what I had just seen to my wife, rather I should have simply pointed the way. Instead, I confessed I had just been to a bathroom unlike anything else I had ever seen.

sketch Parlour is one room among many at Sketch, each undoubtedly as eclectic as the next. We look forward to experiencing them all.

(images by Brad Auerbach)



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.