Infinitely more beautiful now that the chaotic rainbow zigzags of the last installation have gone, sketch Gallery is now home to visual artist David Shrigley’s latest exhibition. As an artist-conceived restaurant, a new commission fills this dramatic, beautiful space every couple of years, and this time it’s ‘oblique mordant’ Shrigley’s 245 original drawings that are showcased; his joyfully absurdist humour on the human experience is sketched along the equator of the dining room wall. His farcical, jokey puns deadpan the space with a playfully dark narrative, and you feel like he’s commenting on the absurdity of life through his own brand of dark silliness; laughing at you and at himself. This paradoxical, playful style accents all of the surroundings, so be wary of condiments as they are not what they seem: labelled as dirt, dust, and nothing. Ponderous stuff. This is the same Alice-in-Wonderland fascination that you feel in the rest of sketch, with an edgier twist, perhaps.
Even the sketch uniform has been shaken up with some retro grey-boiler-suits, and the Gallery interior is an uber-chic juxtaposition to the stark drawings, showcasing them all the more next to velvet-clad, dusky powder pink banquettes and copper gilding. Revamped with India Mahdavi’s super-swish interior design, there’s a ‘60s Parisian meets New York feel: this is the kind of place you imagine Holly Golightly might have frequented in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s not just the restaurant that has been revamped; the menu has also been redesigned by multi Michelin-starred sketch chef Pierre Gagnaire. We discover that the dishes are as luxurious as the surroundings.
Crabmeat and squid with cucumber
Arriving on Shrigley’s customised crockery, the starters are as artistically framed as the sketches. Sat in a pool of (kryptonite-green) apple water, a mound of shredded seafood comprised subtly sweet crabmeat and squid, while the creamy fish brandade added richness to a beautifully delicate dish.
Foie gras terrine
Rich foie gras terrine was slathered onto crisp toasted sourdough and was lifted with sweet verbena jelly, accompanied by a generous heap of shredded Bresse chicken thigh.
Cooked to al dente perfection, the diced blue lobster was hidden under artichoke poivrade shavings and creamy olive oil mousseline. There was an ample mountain of the indulgent lobster; legs, claws, and all.
A winner of a dish, the succulent suckling pig had magnificent flavours, with subtly marinated Asian five-spice and a slab of foie gras which added ultimate decadence. Red cabbage with sesame brought a piquant yet smoky edge and some crispy Gaufrette potatoes were a crunchy contrast. This one is a must-try.
Salted caramel mille feuille
Expecting nothing less from master patissier Pierre, the crispy layered mille feuille was far superior to many other restaurant attempts at this French classic. Butterscotch-richness in the salted caramel ice cream coated the flutteringly-light layers of mille feuille.
Chocolate lime gateau
Dark, earthy chocolate gateau was balanced with a subtle zip of lime, next to a sugar lime crisp and chocolate sticks. Oozing rich dark chocolate ganache, this was indulgently delicious, and all that was left at the end was a chocolate-smeared plate.
All good things in life have endings, and as we leave, it’s hard not to glance at the morbidly dark comic drawings touching on birth, death and everything in between, bringing new life to sketch Gallery. As life brings constant flux, so too, will the quirky sketches when Shrigley renews and updates them constantly over the next two years. All the more reason for a visit to witness a never-seen-before visual art exhibition to amuse you while you eat.
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG