If Hello Kitty, Barbie and Frenchie from Grease got together one afternoon and designed a tea room I suspect it would look a little something like The David Shrigley Gallery at Sketch.
But that candy-coloured trio did not design it, Parisian India Mahdavi did and what she’s created as the backdrop for David Shrigley’s 239 drawings is pure fantasy land – the perfect setting for a meal where puff pastry, dainty finger sandwiches, mille-feuille, éclairs, macaroons and lemon meringue pies rule the roost.
Pink walls merge with pink velvet banquette seats, a pink bar and art deco globe lights. Waitresses in pink dresses are complemented by waiters in grey boiler suits all designed by Richard Nicoll, while Champagne trolleys full of pink Pommery are pushed by men in bow ties. I keep expecting Frankie Avalon to glide down Sketch’s staircase singing Beauty School Drop Out. The only thing butch about The Gallery is David Shrigley’s drawings, which are the basis of the redesign of the room.
The project follows the huge success of Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed’s Sketch restaurant commission in 2012 and continue to emphasis the restaurant’s association with British art. Shrigley’s drawings touch on themes of life, death and beyond, but within the serious subjects is an element of the playful and tongue-in-cheek, which is befitting of the bourgeois and witty design of The Gallery’s new look.
The whole place feels a bit like it is sticking two fingers up to the raw food, no sugar movement and I feel the same as I tuck into three tiers of delicious sugary treats. Afternoon tea at Sketch is served on porcelain white bone crockery with Shrigley’s stamp on it, cups remind you that ‘It’s ok’, milk jugs encourage ‘Dreams’, while a trio of salt and pepper shakers bear the words ‘Dirt’; ‘ Dust’; and ‘Nothing’.
On this china a veritable feast of colour and taste is served. Rows of finger sandwiches, mini croque monsieurs tied in a little yellow bow, bready and sweet pistachio macaroons, garishly pink bubblegum marshmallows and intricate pastries are piled high. Tea is just as much of a rainbow, hibiscus and blackcurrant matches the décor, whole camomile flowers bloom in clear tea pots and the lemon verbena refreshes a sugary palette.
This is not a place for sugar-haters, everything about The Gallery is decadent, go for a treat and don’t feel guilty.