One of The European’s super-skills is to announce dinner plans at quite short notice. This is at odds with the increasing necessity in London to have arrange dinner reservationist generous notice (due to less tables and/or less staff… you choose).
The most recent example of this situation was a week or so back, when one of The European’s buddies visited us. Cue the scramble to find somewhere lovely, only a few days out. I booked them both a Sunday lunch at The Gun, which, when they turned up turned out to be reserved for the wrong Sunday. A good move there by me. In terms of what kind of restaurant for dinner, my brief from Her Highness was simply “a cocktail menu”. Fare, a sister restaurant of the famed Sager + Wilde, seemed to fit the bill.
Fare (unlike Mere, it’s pronounced “Fair”, not “Fairy”) is located at the Barbican side of Old Street. On a rainy Sunday evening, this was a desolate, unwelcoming neighbourhood. As we walked from the station, the only signs of life were people lounging in the bay windows of their apartments in Crescent House. From here, Fare shone like a solitary beacon along a row of shuttered shops and cafés.
Inside, Fare does not look like much. It has a modern, light, and fresh feel, seating diners at simple wooden tables in a wooden-floored, white-walled dining room, where the bar takes up most of the space. The coffee machines are awkwardly located right by the entrance, not that you would notice, seeing as you will be greeted by one of the most cheerful people you will ever meet. The host set the scene for the whole visit; Fare has an incredible team who elegantly and nonchalantly dance the fine line between providing a perfect meal experience with some fun along the way. My personal favourite was the supervisor who took a fascination in my shirt and, noting our interest, gleefully told us how and where to buy the bottles they use to serve the complimentary still and sparkling water.
We were loving guided though the cocktail menu (half of the large bar is devoted to the taps, each one of which serves a separate mixed drink). Cocktails were nice enough, but a little sweet for my liking and less than generously apportioned, resulting with us staying on them for only one round before heading off to wines and beers. Special mention here must go to ‘Hepcat’, a session I.P.A. from the Gipsy Hill brewery in deepest, darkest South London. Hands-down, the best S.I.P.A. I have ever, ever, tasted. Ever.
Being a part of the Sager + Wilde estate is a badge of quality in itself, but you’re going to leave Fare gloriously fed and watered, as well with water bottle suggestions and high shirt-esteem. Its Italian-cum-pizza menu places high value on ethically sourced, natural ingredients, offering just the right level of choice. Fare’s home-made focaccia was incredible, giving that addictive and sweet crunchiness, but also being light enough to warrant um… seconds. We shared starters, agreeing that choosing the favourite from burrata with melon, beef carpaccio or scallops with grated ‘nduja was impossible, although seeing that The European gave me the burrata to finish, keeping the remnants of the other two for her friend and her, I think we know what she thinks.
Fare offer a small but tempting selection of tasting-sound main courses and pasta dishes (if you think spaghettone with octopus ragu sounds anything less than sensual, then I don’t want to know you), but ultimately we each chose one of their sourdough pizzas. The starters were generous, and we were getting full (nothing to do with two servings of focaccia of course) but we did our best with the mains. Fare’s pizzas are noble specimens; the ‘Piccante’ was elegantly spiced with ‘nduja and peppery salami, a ‘Tartufo’ was (obviously) very truffle-y and had also been scattered with finely-chopped mushrooms, which is exactly the way mushrooms should be served, period. My white pizza (the exact name escapes me) with sausage was a decadent stodge-fest, and you could tell the sausage was something special. Ultimately, we were beaten. Remnants of the Tartufo and sausage pizzas made for an exciting working-from-home lunch the next day. By the time the pizzas were doggie-bagged, we were biologically similar to leavened dough, so we skipped dessert.
For a rush booking, and a place to spend a Sunday evening – always the worst evening of the week – Fare proved to be a success of the highest order, serving some damn fine food in a laid-back setting. Its reasonably priced menu and incredible service means that it ticks my two most prized and hardest to attain boxes when it comes to eating out; an incredible price:offering ratio, and, upon reflection, an experience where banter and atmosphere were the stars of the show, rather than the supporting act. Having said that, just go for focaccia and Hepcat and you will leave giggling like a schoolboy/girl. Maybe that is why they’re all so happy working there…